Research suggests that people who live in neighborhoods undergoing socioeconomic decline are at greater risk for significant weight change -- gains or losses -- while those in stable or improving neighborhoods are at lower risk for changes. Photo by JayMantri
Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Older adults living in neighborhoods with declining socioeconomic status have increased risk for excessive changes in weight -- gains or losses -- with the opposite seen in stable or improving areas, according to a study published Friday by JAMA Network Open.
Older adults living in neighborhoods with worse socioeconomic status have a higher risk for excessive weight gain, as well as a higher risk for excessive weight loss, the data showed.
The findings highlight "the potential role of neighborhood environment in weight-related health outcomes," the researchers said.
Although the study does not establish a "causal relationship," it suggests that people living in impoverished areas may not be able to maintain a healthy, nutritious diet.
"Our findings showed that neighborhood conditions are associated with obesity and likely obesity-related health outcomes," study co-author Dong Zhang told UPI.
"We encourage future studies to evaluate whether interventions targeting neighborhood environment may have an impact on health and well-being of the residents," said Zhang, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
Obesity, or dangerously high levels of excess body weight, increases a person's risk for serious health problems, including diabetes and heart disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Conversely, excessive weight loss suggests that people may not have access to sufficient food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Historically, declining neighborhood socioeconomic status, a measure that includes average household income and the percentage of residents living below the federal poverty level, among other factors, has been linked with higher rates of obesity
For this study, Zhang and his colleagues analyzed data from the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health study, an ongoing project assessing nutrition and health of older adults nationally.
Researchers looked at self-reported weight gain and loss trends for more than 126,000 adults in their 50s and 60s, comparing them against socioeconomic patterns for the neighborhoods in which they live.
Residents in areas with declining socioeconomic status had a 19% higher risk for excessive weight gain compared with those who live in more stable areas, while those who live in neighborhoods with improving status had a 13% lower risk.
Similarly, those who live in areas with declining socioeconomic status had a 15% higher risk for excessive weight loss compared to those who live in more stable areas, while people in areas with improving status had an 11% lower risk.
"Long-term neighborhood socioeconomic status improvement was associated with lower risks for both excessive weight gain and loss, [and] larger changes in neighborhood appeared to be associated with a larger likelihood of having excessive weight change," Zhang said.
"We encourage future studies to evaluate whether interventions targeting neighborhood environment may have an impact on health and well-being of the residents," he said.