Places that provide opportunities for socialization may support health and well-being through entertainment, support, protection and care, according to a study posted on the website of the University of Michigan (UM) this week.
The sites outside the home or work that play vital and life-saving roles in communities are called by researchers as “third places.” Coffee shops and cafes, bars, barbershops, bowling alleys and laundromats serve as affordable places for people to meet.
To get a sense of how significantly the 2008 recession impacted these third places, UM researchers combed the National Establishment Time-Series, a database that provides annual records of the U.S. economy.
The database provides detailed information for more than 60 million private for-profit and nonprofit establishments, as well as government agencies, from 1990 to 2015.
The researchers found that, from 2008 to 2015, establishments such as grocery stores and convenience stores decreased by 23 percent, and religious organizations by 17 percent. The researchers found that most types of third places have declined, with the exception of eateries.
“Not everyone wants to go to a senior center or a community center for social interaction. Third spaces provide opportunities for social engagement, informal social support, and shelter from heat waves or cold spells, all for the cost of a cup of coffee,” said senior author Philippa Clarke, a professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health.
“The potential loss of these places may have direct consequences for health and isolation among the more vulnerable members of society,” Clarke said.
UM postdoctoral researcher Jessica Finlay, a fellow at the Institute for Social Research’s Survey Research Center and lead author of the study, said that even retail stores can be important to the livelihood of older adults.
“If you think historically, tracing all the way back to plazas where people gathered thousands of years ago up to present-day sites, these are usually fairly ordinary, affordable places that could impact someone’s overall sense of wellness,” Finlay said.
The study was published in the journal Health & Place.
Xinhua – CHICAGO