A new research has outlined the immense benefits of residing in neighbourhoods where amenities of daily life are within walking distance.
The study from University of New Hampshire has also linked walkable neighborhoods to an increase in social benefits.
"We found that neighborhoods that are more walkable had higher levels of social capital such as trust among neighbors and participation in community events," said Shannon Rogers, lead author of the study,
She adds that 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.
After piloting a study in two Durham neighborhoods, Rogers and the study's coauthors surveyed 700 residents of 20 neighborhoods in two New Hampshire municipalities, Portsmouth and Manchester.
Survey participants self-identified the walkability of their neighborhoods by indicating the number of locations they could walk to in their community; any neighborhood with a mean response of more than seven walkable locations (out of a possible 13) was designated "walkable" by the researchers.
To measure social capital, they utilized a well-established scale developed by the Saguaro Seminar at Harvard University, which is headed by "Bowling Alone" author and social capital scholar Robert Putnam.
Rogers cautions that the study's results are mitigated by a possible self-selection bias: "People who enjoy walking may choose to live in more walkable neighborhoods," she said, adding that it would be naive to say this study "proves" that walkability affects social capital in neighborhoods.
Those living in more walkable neighborhoods trusted their neighbors more; participated in community projects, clubs and volunteering more; and described television as their major form of entertainment less than survey participants living in less walkable neighborhoods.
The article is published in the recent issue of the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.