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Negative health impact of neighbour disputes

21 August 2007

Neighbourhood conflict is on the up and affecting people's health, according to a city-based mediation organisation.

Edinburgh Community Mediation said it was concerned for community health as referrals of neighbour conflict in the past year have almost doubled. The service is now dealing with around 440 referrals a year.

The Edinburgh service, which is part of the community justice organisation Sacro, offers free and non-judgmental support to all local residents. The service monitors the health impact on those involved in each case and the results continue to mirror those of an earlier formal research paper published by the organisation’s Fife service.

The findings of the research paper concluded:

  • 74% of all disputants felt their health was affected by the conflict;
  • overwhelming symptoms in 95% of disputants were stress related (headaches, sleeplessness or depression);
  • smoking increased by 11%;
  • average level of medication usage rose fourfold during a dispute;
  • serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, increased asthma and bodily injuries occurred in 5% of cases;
  • the most significant behavioural change was increased aggression (62%);
  • mediation resulted in improved health for a significant number of participants.

Christine Schoeck of the Edinburgh service said: “We see people on a daily basis whose quality of life is ruined by dispute. People can be consumed by anger and fear and really can’t see a way forward. This impacts badly on their health, particularly if the dispute goes on for any length of time.

"At Sacro’s Edinburgh Community Mediation we aim to help people put their point of view across in a calm and positive environment. Participation is voluntary and if all those involved in a dispute come face to face, our success rate is 95%.”