Comment: Why we all need good neighbours

Getting to know your neighbours can be good for your mental health. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphot

Getting to know your neighbours can be good for your mental health. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Remember the yonder olden days, when we all knew our neighbours, left our doors unlocked and were on first name terms with the lady in the shop and the man in the pub?

Those days, as we're constantly being reminded, are gone.

Many of us don't know our neighbours now, with only 53 per cent of people quizzed in a recent Laurus Homes survey saying they felt a sense of community with others that lived on their street.

Community definitely matters, and experts fear that many of us are one friendly "morning" away from social isolation and associated mental health problems.

Seriously. It sounds excessive, but the data suggests there's more than a little bit of truth to be found.

A BMC Public Health paper found that working-age adults who lived alone were far more likely to develop mental health problems and rely on antidepressants than those who lived in a shared household.

You can see why.

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Too much time alone isn't good for any of us, and a quick chat can definitely help turn a depressing day around.

We've been in our current place for three months, and haven't got beyond basic smalltalk with any of our neighbours.

Having made a handful of good friends at our old address, it's taken a bit of getting used to. It's also made life more complicated in ways we'd got out of the habit of thinking about.

When we went away over Christmas I made a conscious effort to hide jewellery and electronics and confirm that any incoming parcels would be carefully hidden, not left out on the (empty) drive for all the see.

With no one to pop in and open the curtains or push the post through the letterbox, we were worried the house would look inviting to passing crims.

Good neighbours, eh? Not just potential good friends and relievers of mental stress, but handy for keeping burglars at bay, too.