Eileen Bjornstrom, an assistant professor of sociology in the MU College of Arts and Science, found that people reported better health when they trusted their neighbours.
"I examined the idea of 'relative position,' or where one fits into the income distribution in their local community, as it applies to both trust of neighbours and self-rated health," said Bjornstrom.
"Because human beings engage in interpersonal comparisons in order to gauge individual characteristics, it has been suggested that a low relative position, or feeling that you are below another person financially, leads to stress and negative emotions such as shame, hostility and distrust, and that health suffers as a consequence.
"While most people aren't aware of how trust impacts them, results indicated that trust was a factor in a person's overall health," she stated.
Contrary to expectations, Bjornstrom who examined the 2001 Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey found that respondents with a higher income, relative to their community, were more likely to be distrustful of their neighbours.
Simultaneously, while taking into account factors such as level of education, income, and age, people who said "their neighbours can be trusted" also reported better health on average.
Bjornstrom's study appeared in the journal Social Science and Medicine.