21 Mar, 2012 Last updated: 30 Mar, 2015

By Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

Letter to the editor first published in the Bendigo Advertiser, 22 March 2012.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter

Getting to know your neighbours is about more than having someone to collect your newspapers and feed the cat or dog while you’re away.

This Sunday (25 March) marks an important event, National Neighbour Day.

This day is a celebration of community, bringing together the people next door, across the street or on the next farm for a cup of tea or a BBQ.

Research shows social isolation can be as harmful for health as smoking cigarettes.

And while we may not completely understand why yet, the evidence is stacking up that people with more friends tend to live longer.

Unfortunately, loneliness is becoming more common in Australia, with 3.7 million of us expected to live alone by 2026. But it’s not because we don’t care.

An astounding number of us are concerned about our fellow citizens and we routinely use social media to rally behind humanitarian causes.

But there’s more we can do to show we care than clicking the ‘like’ button. Loneliness can be a vicious cycle until someone reaches out to help break it.

This Neighbour Day, why not make an effort to talk to your neighbours, leave a note introducing yourself in the letter box, get them over for a cup of tea, offer to help out, or just make a point of stopping to say hi in the street.

You can check out more ideas at www.neighbourday.org.

- Jerril