Moving to a Depressed Neighborhood Linked to Weight Gain

Local socioeconomic environment can have an effect, according to new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Ann Arbor, MI, May 8, 2015

Certain regions in the United States are characterized by a higher prevalence of obesity, which suggests that a person’s socioeconomic, physical, and social environments can affect opportunities for healthy behaviors that might prevent excess weight gain. But what happens when people move from one neighborhood to another? A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who moved to more socioeconomically deprived neighborhoods gained additional weight.

Researchers used data from the Dallas Heart Survey (DHS), a probability-based sample of over 3,000 Dallas County residents aged 18–65 years. The study began between 2000 and 2002 and a seven-year follow-up was conducted between 2007 and 2009, at which time 1,835 participants completed a detailed survey, anthropometric measures, and laboratory testing. Each participant was linked to Dallas County census block groups, and a Neighborhood Deprivation Index (NDI) was calculated for each block group.

The NDI score was based on 21 variables from the 2000 U.S. Census to determine the socioeconomic status (SES) of each block group. Higher values of the NDI indicate a higher level of deprivation. Participants were asked 18 survey questions regarding their perception of the neighborhood to assess perceived neighborhood violence, physical environment, and social cohesion.

According to lead investigator Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley, MD, MPH, Division of Intramural Research, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH, “Longitudinal studies specifically examining the relationship between neighborhood SES change and obesity as a cardiovascular risk factor are rare and have had methodologic limitations. This study sheds important light on the impact that changes in neighborhood socioeconomic deprivation by moving can have on weight change and subsequent obesity.”

Among people who relocated, 263 participants moved to a higher-NDI neighborhood, 586 to a lower-NDI neighborhood, 47 participants moved but had no NDI change, and 939 participants remained in the same neighborhood. Those who moved to higher-NDI areas gained more weight compared to those who remained at the same NDI or moved to lower NDI (0.64 kg per 1-unit NDI increase).

The study also showed that among those who moved to higher-NDI neighborhoods, the impact of NDI change on weight gain increased for those who lived in a new neighborhood for more than four years, with a mean additional weight gain per 1-unit NDI increase of 0.85 kg.

The researchers concluded that “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.”

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Notes for editors
“Change in Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status and Weight Gain: Dallas Heart Study,” by Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley, MD, MPH, Rebecca Cooper-McCann, BS, Colby Ayers, MS, David Berrigan, PhD, Min Lian, PhD, Michael McClurkin, BS, Rachel Ballard Barbash, MD, MPH, Sandeep R. Das, MD, MPH, Christine M. Hoehner, PhD, and Tammy Leonard, PhD. It is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, online ahead of Volume 49, Issue 1 (July 2015), DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.01.013.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Angela J. Beck at +1 734-764-8775 or ajpmmedia@elsevier.com. Journalists wishing to interview the authors should contact Greg Lavine, NHLBI Communications Office, at +1 301-496-4236 or lavineg@nhlbi.nih.gov.

About the authors
Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley, MD, MPH, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD

Rebecca Cooper-McCann, BS, Clinical Center, Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education, NIH, Bethesda, MD

Colby Ayers, MS, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX

David Berrigan, PhD, Applied Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD

Min Lian, PhD, Division of General Medical Sciences, Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

Michael McClurkin, BS, Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Branch, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD

Rachel Ballard Barbash, MD, MPH, Applied Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD

Sandeep R. Das, MD, MPH, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX

Christine M. Hoehner, PhD, Independent Consultant, St. Louis, MO

Tammy Leonard, PhD, Department of Economics, University of Dallas, Irving, TX

About the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine (www.ajpmonline.org) is the official journal of The American College of Preventive Medicine (www.acpm.org) and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research (http://www.aptrweb.org/). It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, with an Impact Factor of 4.281, is ranked 10th in Public, Environmental, and Occupational Health titles and 17th in General & Internal Medicine titles according to the 2013 Journal Citation Reports® published by Thomson Reuters, 2014.

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Media contact
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+1 734 764 8775
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