Although stroke rates did not differ by neighborhood, survival was better for those living in "cohesive" neighborhoods. Why seniors in black neighborhoods didn't see the same benefit is not clear, they added.
"Further research is needed to understand the specific ways that neighborhood cohesion works to protect against stroke mortality and why this protective effect was not equally shared by blacks and whites in the study," Clark said.
Scott C. Brown, a research assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that neighborhoods with shared values might also promote healthy behaviors among neighbors.
As for why these findings were seen only in whites, Brown speculated that other factors might come in to play. "There may be unmeasured variables, such as crime or health-care access," he explained.
"You may have neighborhoods where neighbors are watching out for each other [but] there may be less access to health care, or no health insurance," Brown said.
There is evidence that neighborhood social cohesion may reduce the risk of stroke mortality, Brown said. "It may have to do with neighbors' willingness to intervene in emergencies where a neighbor is showing symptoms of stroke, but more data are needed to really know," he noted.
For more information on stroke, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Cari Jo Clark, Sc.D., assistant professor, medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Scott C. Brown, Ph.D., research assistant professor, epidemiology and public health, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; April 14, 2011, Stroke, online
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