The Importance of Relationships With Neighbors for Psychological Well-Being Among Midlife and Older Adults: Evidence From a Longitudinal U.S. National Study
Methods: We used data from 1,188 non-institutionalized, English-speaking adults, ages 40 to 74, who participated in both waves of the 1995-2005 National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS). Controlling for sociodemographic factors, such as participants’ education and gender, lagged dependent regression models were estimated to examine associations between two measures of quality of relationships with neighbors (contact and perceived support) and well-being (environmental mastery, purpose in life, positive affect, and negative affect) over the 10-year study period.
Results: Even when accounting for the quality of respondents’ relationships with family and friends, greater perceived support from neighbors was associated with improved environmental mastery, purpose in life, and positive affect. Associations for perceived support and environmental mastery, as well as perceived support and purpose in life, were stronger for adults in early midlife relative to adults in later midlife and young-old age. No evidence was found for linkages between the quality of relationships with neighbors and negative affect.
Conclusion and Implications: Results suggest that supportive relationships with neighbors can facilitate positive states of well-being, particularly in earlier midlife. Findings provide support for the promise of community-based initiatives that focus on facilitating supportive relationships whereby contact among neighbors is not just frequent, but also positive, supportive, and meaningful. Additional longitudinal research is necessary to further explore how the meaning and role of relationships with neighbors potentially change throughout the lifespan, as well as to understand the meaning of relationships in neighbors across diverse types of communities, such as by race/ethnicity.
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