Youth Obesity Linked to Neighborhood
Researchers from Florida State University have determined that the neighborhood a child grows up in is a significantly strong factor in determining whether the child will become obese as an adolescent and adult.
The research analyzed and tracked 9,115 adolescents during three periods – 1996, 2001 and 2008 – as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
The data found that overweight adolescents were more likely to live in disadvantaged (socioeconomically poor) neighborhoods, and their rate of weight gain is significantly higher over time than children from non-disadvantaged neighborhoods. Children from disadvantaged neighborhoods also had a higher likelihood of being obese during adulthood. Weight determination was gauged by measuring body mass index (BMI).
The research also found that children from Black and Hispanic neighborhoods were more likely to be obese and had a higher rate of weight gain.
The researchers concluded that “the neighborhood environment during the critical period of adolescence appears to have a long-term effect on BMI in adulthood. Policy interventions focusing on the neighborhood environment may have far-reaching effects on adult health.”
This finding correlates with another study reported by Real Natural in 2011. This study found that fast food corporations placed a disproportionately higher number of fast food restaurants in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and this was found to contribute directly to higher rates of obesity among these neighborhoods. French fries for breakfast anyone?
This research is also critical because more and more Americans are becoming obese. Currently about a third of American adults are obese and two-thirds are overweight. A new report announced at the second annual Weight of the Nation conference estimates that by 2030, 42 percent of U.S. adults will be obese. Obesity is linked to numerous disorders along with early mortality.
Written by Case Adams, PhD
Burdette AM, Needham BL. Neighborhood environment and body mass index trajectories from adolescence to adulthood. J Adolesc Health. 2012 Jan;50(1):30-7.