DURHAM, N.H., Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Living where amenities like markets, playgrounds, post offices and restaurants are within walking distance offers increased social benefits, a U.S. study says.
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire say this is in addition to known benefits to health and the environment, a university release said Monday.
"We found that neighborhoods that are more walkable had higher levels of social capital such as trust among neighbors and participation in community events," Shannon Rogers, a Ph.D. candidate in UNH's Natural Resources and Earth System Science program, said.
Those who have higher levels of positive social capital have been shown to have a higher quality of life through better health and economic opportunities, among other things, she said.
In a survey, 700 residents of 20 neighborhoods in two New Hampshire municipalities, Portsmouth and Manchester, identified the walkability of their neighborhoods by indicating the number of locations they could walk to in their community.
A neighborhood with a response of more than seven walkable locations out of a possible 13 was designated "walkable" by the researchers.
Those living in more walkable neighborhoods trusted their neighbors more, participated in community projects, clubs and volunteering more, and were less likely to describe television as their main form of entertainment than survey participants living in less walkable neighborhoods, the study found.
"This study is significant because the relationship between physical community structure and social capital really hasn't been explored much," John Halstead, UNH professor of natural resources and the environment, said. "It says something about how we might design neighborhoods in the future not to just save gas but to increase social capital."