Moving to a socioeconomically deprived neighborhood may increase an individual’s risk for obesity. This is according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Obesity has become a major health concern in the US, affecting around 78.6 million adults and 12.7 million children and adolescents in the country.
Numerous studies have suggested an individual’s socioeconomic status may influence their risk of obesity. In 2010, for example, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that women with higher income are less likely to be obese than those with lower income.
What is more, certain regions in the US have higher obesity rates than others, which indicates that the area in which a person lives may affect their likelihood of weight gain.
In this latest study, lead investigator Dr. Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley, of the Division of Intramural Research, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Branch at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and colleagues set out to see whether moving from one neighborhood to another affects a person’s weight gain.
To reach their findings, the team assessed data from the Dallas Heart Study, which involves more than 3,000 residents from Dallas County aged 18-65.
Participants were enrolled to the study between 2000 and 2002 and overall health and socioeconomic data were collected. Follow-up data – including information on participants’ weight and their perceptions of the neighborhood in which they lived – were gathered for 1,835 of the participants between 2007 and 2009.
Each participant was allocated to a Dallas County census block group, and each group was given a Neighborhood Deprivation Index (NDI) score that revealed their socioeconomic status. This score was calculated using 21 variables from the 2000 US census – the higher the score, the more deprived the participants’ neighborhood.
During the study period, 939 participants remained in the same neighborhood, 586 moved to a neighborhood with a lower NDI score, 263 participants moved to a neighborhood with a higher NDI score, and 47 participants relocated but had no change in NDI score.
The researchers found that participants who moved to a neighborhood with a higher NDI score gained more weight than participants who remained in a neighborhood with the same NDI score or moved to one with a lower score; they gained an average of 0.64 kg for every 1-unit NDI increase.
What is more, the team found that participants who moved to a neighborhood with a higher NDI score and who had lived there for at least 4 years gained an average of an additional 0.85 kg for every 1-unit NDI increase.
Commenting on the findings, the researchers say:
“This study identifies exposure to higher-deprivation neighborhoods with moving as a risk factor for weight gain, and suggests a potential source of disparities that can be addressed through focused community-based public health initiatives.
More broadly, addressing neighborhood deprivation as a risk factor for obesity and obesity-related cardiovascular disease requires consideration of public policy that can address sources of deprivation.”
Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting switching to public transport to get to work instead of driving could aid weight loss.