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10+ Benefits of Cohousing and Co-Living: Learn More

February 04, 2022

In the United States and abroad, intentional communities might be the answer we're seeking to issues including aging, the high cost of living and loneliness.

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Photo: Sindre Ellingsen

Cohousing and Co-Living Communities are the Ultimate Solution for a Number of Social Problems

For some people, living alone is the dream. You have your own space, full control over when to do the dishes and when to avoid them, and you don’t have to abide by anyone else’s morning routine or late-night work schedule. For others, living alone is too expensive or just downright lonely. Enter cohousing and co-living communities, which studies have found can positively impact our mental health and quality of life. These concepts are currently gaining steam amid growing loneliness among millennials and older adults, and a greater demand for flexible, affordable living options.

In these spaces around the United States and abroad, you can live in homes built around community and be part of something much bigger than yourself, often with more amenities for less money than it costs to live by yourself.

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The Difference Between Cohousing and Coliving

The modern concept of cohousing has its roots in Danish architecture in the 1960s, when groups of families in Denmark created housing communities together to help each other care for one another and raise children more collaboratively. Today, cohousing communities are becoming more popular throughout Europe and the United States. Each community is unique, and often they're custom- and purpose-built by their members. They typically consist of groups of standalone houses or fully sufficient, owned apartments with a common house and/or green space. Rather than being managed by an outside company, members make decisions for the community based on consensus.

Co-living is a bit newer and is a bit of a hybrid between a cohousing community and rental apartment buildings. In co-living buildings, you may have your own apartment or you may share with roommates, but you're likely to rent directly from a management company rather than co-signing a lease with friends or strangers. These companies typically offer all-inclusive rent prices for furnished units in buildings with shared co-working, living and cooking spaces. Units often come fully furnished and many are targeted toward young adults who want to move into a building with flexible leases and an existing social structure. They can work particularly well for people starting over in new cities where they don't already have a social support network.

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Studies Show Cohousing can Improve Mental and Physical Health

People around the world have experienced a whole new level of isolation since the start of the pandemic, yet those who live in cohousing communities seem to have fared better, according to a study published in late 2020 by the journal Interpersona. The study's researchers analyzed people living in Germany during the lockdowns of 2020 and found that cohousing residents relied on each other more for social support than residents of traditional neighborhoods. They reported suffering from less depression and anxiety and even fewer eating disorders than others not living in cohousing communities.

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Neighborliness is Built In to Cohousing Communities

Other studies have found positive impacts on mental health. A paper published by Public Health Reviews analyzed existing research on how cohousing impacts mental and physical health and quality of life, and found that eight out of 10 such studies found positive associations.

To put it simply, having good access to social support from your neighbors can positively impact your mental, emotional and physical health, and your overall quality of life. The shared access to tools and resources; someone to help watch your kids while you're working; or to bring you meals if you fall ill, are all benefits of cohousing. And living in a cohousing community often makes access to that social support easier and more explicitly available than in a traditional neighborhood.

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