Neighbour disputes are damaging your health

DISPUTES WITH neighbours damage the health of most people involved, provoking asthma, strokes and depression, Britain's first quantitative research into the problem shows. Four out of 10 people said they had to visit their doctor as a direct result of their dispute with a neighbour, the government-sponsored study says.

One-third of those in clashes with those living nearby said they had begun taking medication to help deal with the problem and their consumption of medication was four times higher than before the dispute. Nearly three-quarters of those in disputes said their health had been affected, many saying they were drinking more to cope. More than one in 10 said they were smoking more.

Most of the symptoms were headaches, sleeplessness or depression, but one in 20 of those in neighbour arguments had heart attacks, strokes, increased asthma, psoriasis and bodily injuries.

Researchers also found behavioural changes in those surveyed. Loss of confidence and/or the avoidance of people or places was mentioned by more than 60 per cent of those interviewed. Nearly two-thirds said they had become more aggressive.

The results are likely to reinforce the growing trend for councils and environmental health services to fund mediation services so long-running disagreements can be resolved without calling in the police. Neighbourhood mediation services already cover 38 per cent of the population.

The nine-month study, based on 184 people involved in 65 disputes from 71 households in Scotland, was commissioned by the Scottish Executive and conducted by RFC Total Quality Consultancy for Fife Community Mediation, which is dealing with more than 500 cases.

The survey found that mediation dramatically cut the damaging effects of disputes. More than half said their health had improved as a result of intervention. Two-thirds felt less aggressive and 80 per cent had recovered the confidence lost in the row. The 40 per cent rise in visits to the doctor fell to just 7 per cent after mediation.

Mediators say the vast majority of cases are caused by excessive noise.