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Kids in poorer neighborhoods likely to be less healthy, worse educated

By
Tauren Dyson
Kids who grow up in poor neighborhoods have a higher genetic risk of underperforming in school and having children too early. File Photo by Tyler Olson/Shutterstock
Kids who grow up in poor neighborhoods have a higher genetic risk of underperforming in school and having children too early. File Photo by Tyler Olson/Shutterstock

April 8 (UPI) -- When it comes to future success in life, where a child lives and who their parents are can be tightly connected, a new study says.

Kids who grow up in poor neighborhoods have a higher genetic risk of underperforming in school and having children too early, according to research published Monday in Nature Human Behavior. These kids were also more likely to move into poor neighborhoods themselves as they get older.

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"But genetic risk alone was not enough to explain why poorer children from poorer versus more affluent neighborhoods received less education and were more likely to Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) by late adolescence," Daniel Belsky, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University and study author, said in a news release. "The data on education could explain only a fraction (10 to 15 percent) of the link between neighborhood risk and poor educational qualifications and NEET status, suggesting that there is ample opportunity for neighborhoods to influence these outcomes."

Between 1994 and 1995, researchers screened 15,000 high school students as they moved into adulthood, as well as more than 2,200 twins born in England. They looked for things like schizophrenia, obesity, when they had their first child and what level of education they ultimately attained.

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The researchers used Google Street View and geospatial data to pinpoint which neighborhoods were most likely to have negative physical and mental health outcomes.

"Surprisingly, for obesity, one of the most prevalent and costly health problems facing this generation, we found no link between neighborhood and genetic risk," said Candice Odgers, a researcher at University of California at Irvine and study author. "Children grew up in worse-off for neighborhood were more likely to become obese by 18, but they did not carry a higher genetic risk for obesity than their peers living in more advantaged neighborhoods. "

While the findings didn't show a link between genetic risk and childhood mental disorder, they did reveal that a combination of genetics and zip code predicted their future health outcomes.

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Other studies also reflect the same connection between poor neighborhoods and poor health.

"In our study, polygenic risk scores showed a link between genetics and neighborhoods for teen pregnancy and poor educational outcomes. This finding suggests that we should consider neighborhoods when interpreting the results of studies searching for genes related to these outcomes and also that we should consider genes when examining the effects of a neighborhood," Belsky said.

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