Is your neighborhood a friendly place filled with lots of families? Then you're in luck — a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health seems to show that people who socialize with their neighbors are far less likely to suffer health problems like heart attacks.
That's bad news for my family, because we live in what is possibly the most unfriendly neighborhood of all time. When we decided to make the move from our home state of New York to the Midwest, I brought with me the hopeful stereotype that Midwesterners are social types who would greet us with homemade baked goods and invitations to the block party.
The development in which our house sits appears to look like just the sort of place that would happen. In fact, according to the information we got from our realtor, it was designed to facilitate social interaction by placing everyone's driveways in the back of the home and creating a sort of "town square" in the center, one that includes a playground.
The reality couldn't be farther from the truth. I rarely see a single soul coming or going from their homes, specifically because most of us are pulling into our garages in a back alley. The development was also built just before the housing market collapsed, and there are rentals and foreclosures up and down our street, making for a transient population.
I can count on one hand the number of social interactions I've had since we moved in eight years ago, and my kids have had even fewer chances to make friends. In a word, it sucks.
As a result, my kids are bored and tend to stay inside to play and interact with their devices, unless I am actively scheduling playdates for them. We send our kids to private school and most of their classmates live across town. Between working full time and after school activities and sports, there is literally no time to ferry them to their friends' homes 30 minutes away from our 'hood.
We recently spent time with our kids' cousins and all of them have pals either next door or down the street who come over almost every day to play. My daughter mournfully expressed her desire to have such a friend in our neighborhood, but I don't think that's going to happen for her.
I hate the fact that my children don't have a gang of buddies to hang out with. When I was growing up, I had a posse of friends, and I rarely needed any help from my parents to entertain myself. And now, I have the added worry that this antisocial neighborhood is literally bad for their health.
When we move, the top of my must-have list won't be a second floor laundry room — it will be a neighborhood full of kids.
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