PROVO, Utah – More and more people reported feelings of loneliness during 2020, in large part because of COVID-19 restrictions. But a new study from Brigham Young University, BYU, says being nice to neighbors can help people feel more connected.
BYU researchers did a randomized, controlled study involving almost 4,300 people in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia who took part in the Nextdoor KIND Challenge.
People were then asked to give socially distanced support to their neighbors. This could be anything from chatting on the porch to dropping off groceries.
At the end of a month, the number of people who said they were “severely lonely” dropped from 10% to 5%.
Knowing who lives next door also helps.
BYU researchers found people who know six or more neighbors report lower levels of anxiety, depression, and financial stress.
BYU psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad believes these findings can help people short term and long term.
“The fact that something as simple as saying hello to your neighbor could make the difference is significant,” Holt-Lunstad said in a statement. “Especially during a pandemic where you might expect loneliness to increase.”
She said researchers usually believe close family and friend relationships correlate with strong mental health.
“[However] during the pandemic, our neighbors maybe some of the few people we can have face-to-face contact with,” Holt-Lunstad said. “But even in normal times, those who live near us are important because we have a shared community and goals.”