‘Community spirit’ increases life expectancy in poor areas

community spirit

It’s a commonly held belief that rich people live longer, but this may not be the case according to researchers from Durham University.

In a presentation at the British Science Festival, the results of a study were revealed which suggest that community spirit can overcome the detrimental effects of economic deprivation; put simply, people in poor communities can live just as long as their wealthier counterparts if they club together. This phenomenon is called health resilience.

Jo Cairns-Nagi, a co-author of the study, drew on the example of Chevington in Northumbria, saying “the interviews and focus groups revealed that residents loved the area they lived in and had no desire to ever move despite the economic decline, which may be seen to be a strong indicator of place attachment.” The environment around them exerts a therapeutic effect, but that is far from limited to the buildings or trees: it is people who make the biggest difference.

The study points to Chevington’s strong community feel dating back to its mining past, saying it is these social bonds that cause the residents to feel happier and live longer than those in similar areas who lack this interaction. Even new residents may not receive the same health benefits as those more established in the community.

“Deprivation and poor health need not go hand-in-hand,” Cairns-Nagi continues. “Some communities have protective resources, social networks, and so forth in place to be able to resist the detrimental effects of economic deprivation and it is important that we recognise these.”