Women living in poor neighborhoods are more likely to be obese and have type 2 diabetes than those who move into more advantaged areas, says a HealthDay article based on a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
From 1994 through 1998, the study authors recruited 4,498 women with children living in public housing in high-poverty areas. Called Moving to Opportunity, the study's aim was to see if moving the women and their children from high-poverty areas to lower-poverty areas could improve their lives. The study volunteers came from Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
The women were assigned to 1of 3 groups based on the results of a random lottery. One group received housing vouchers that were only redeemable if they moved to an area with less than 10% of people living in poverty, and they received counseling on moving; another group received housing vouchers with no restrictions; and the final group received no intervention.
In 2008 through 2010, the researchers collected follow-up information, including measurements of height, weight, and blood samples to test for diabetes.
During the follow-up period, 17% of the women in the control group were morbidly obese. Among the women who moved to lower-poverty areas, the rate was 14.4%, which is 19% lower than the control group. Women who received traditional housing vouchers had a morbid obesity rate of 15.4%, the article says.
The rate of diabetes was 16.3% in the women who moved to lower-poverty areas, 20.6% in the traditional housing voucher group, and 20% in the control group.
Although the study wasn't designed to identify the specific factors that might have contributed to the drop in obesity and diabetes rates after moving to lower-poverty areas, the authors say 4 major factors likely contributed: (1) access to better foods; (2) the ability to exercise in safer neighborhoods; (3) access to better health care; and (4) reduced psychological stress because of moving to a safer neighborhood.