The following graphics describe three studies that looked at the effects of walkability on people's health. The first, a 2003 study from the American Journal of Public Health asked questions such as how many times per month do you say hello to your neighbors? Do you ever exchange favors with your neighbors? How often do you socialize with your neighbors? Do you vote? The study found that even while controlling for other factors, walkability was the only consistently significant predictor of the social capital of a neighborhood. Walkability was the most important predictor of the Trust Index.
This 2004 study borrowed the methodology for measuring walkability from the 2003 study above, asking hundreds of patients from three clinics how many critical places they were able to walk to from their neighborhood. The study then asked them to rate their own health. People with five or more places to walk had better odds of reporting that they are in good, very good or excellent health.
Finally, this more recent study looked at walkability within a single neighborhood, Mueller in Austin, TX. The community will accommodate 10,000 residents and 10,000 employees once it is fully completed in 2018. About 25% of the housing units are affordable and reserved for households with incomes lower than the area median. (Somewhat different from Celebration, Florida). This study asked eople about their physical activity before and after a move to a walkable neighborhood. The recall period ranged from 1 month to 6.4 years, with a mean of 2.9 years. Although only 34.4% of the group was active 5 or more days a week, 30 or more minutes a day, almost 46% were active after their move. The study also found that people had a greater sense of neighborhood cohesion and more social interactions after the move. However, some of this may have been the result of a "honeymoon" feeling after having moved to their new place of residence. More studies of this type would need to be conducted.
What about in your neighborhood? Do you think the design of your neighborhood or building affect the social interactions that you and your neighbors have? Have you found it to be more of a cultural phenomenon or a personal choice? What does it take to build community in your immediate neighborhood and is that important separate from having a sense of community anywhere in your city?