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Neighborhood and Town

illustration of people in a neighborhood with shopfront and outdoor seating

Did you know that your ZIP code plays a role in your health? It might surprise you to hear that up to 60% of your health is determined by where you live. Your neighborhood, along with your town and larger geographical region, impacts your sense of community and belonging, and determines how easily you can access the things and services you need, including for your mental health.

Access to quality resources

One of the biggest ways your location can impact your mental health is how easy or hard it is to access the things you need. This includes healthy food, safe outdoor space, quality medical care, and public transportation (which still may not get you where you need to go in a reasonable amount of time even when you do have access). Because local income taxes usually fund public services, low-income areas are often under-resourced in quality education, road maintenance, community programs, and more, which can make it difficult for people to meet their basic needs. Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and other marginalized communities often feel these strains the hardest.

  • Get to know your neighbors. The people living around you can be a big help when you need something. You can support each other with carpools, running errands, or sharing resources.
  • Connect with a group in your area where community members share and exchange services. You may be able to find an organized mutual aid program, or you can search for a local Facebook or NextDoor group focused on community support.

Gentrification and poverty

Gentrification is when a low-income neighborhood quickly changes as wealthier people and businesses move into the area. This often forces out long-time residents and businesses as rent, mortgages, property taxes, and the general cost of living rise. People and business who are forced to move – particularly within the BIPOC community – generally end up in lower-income and under-resourced areas.

  • Support local businesses. Locally owned businesses – from coffee shops to grocery stores to home services – keep communities going. By shopping locally, you help them stay open.
  • Stay connected. If you are forced to relocate, try to stay connected to your original community or the people you knew from it. Many gentrified neighborhoods previously had a strong community identity and culture, and maintaining those social ties can protect your mental health.

Social connection

Feeling a sense of connection is crucial for your mental well-being. While you can find this with many people and in many places, the people you live near can provide community and social support. Your physical closeness to neighbors allows for spontaneous interactions and shared interests, which can lead to genuine friendship. Strong community among neighborhoods and nearby residents protects mental health through shared support, resources, and joy. On the other hand, you may be in a neighborhood without community, feel like an outsider, or lose your community because of gentrification – all of which can have be harmful to mental health.

  • Be a friendly neighbor. It sounds obvious, but taking the first step to wave or say “hello” can be the beginning of a fulfilling connection. You can also try to organize group gatherings.
  • Seek out places within your neighborhood or town. Where can you find safety, comfort, or connection? Think outside of the box of where you can find people with similar interests or commonalities to you. These could be parks, places of worship, barber shops, tattoo parlors, cafes, or libraries.

Community safety

There are many reasons people might feel unsafe in their local surroundings, including violence and mass shootings, police presence and brutality, and discrimination and harassment. These safety concerns may prevent people from engaging in outdoor or community activities, which can be harmful to physical and mental health. Even if you haven’t dealt with fear or violence yourself, witnessing or hearing about it can still impact you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently defined community violence as a “critical public health problem,” and the World Health Organization has recommended adding exposure to community violence (ECV) as a new adverse childhood experience (ACE) category.

  • Focus on community care. Crime occurs in areas where people don’t have their needs met. While you can’t fix everything, you can take part in keeping your neighborhood safe by providing support and resources and advocating for harm repair over punishment.
  • Identify safe people. Being prepared can help alleviate anxiety and fear. Know who your allies are and who you can count on if you find yourself in danger.

Nowhere is perfect, and every community faces challenges at one point or another. Stressing over your well-being in your neighborhood can take a toll on your mental health. If you find that the area you live in is worrying you or constantly on your mind, take a screen at to see if you might be showing early signs of a mental health condition.

Take a mental health test

Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

See more Mental Health Month resources

Learn more about how your surroundings and environment impact your mental health.

Did this article help increase your knowledge and understanding of mental health?