Children in poorer areas may have higher obesity risk

November 26, 2012

A study published in Social Science & Medicine shows that children living in poorer neighborhoods may be more likely to be obese than children in more affluent residences.

The researchers conducted a comparison of 17,530 5-year-old children living in approximately 4,700 neighborhoods throughout the United States. They found that children in poorer neighborhoods have 28% higher odds of developing obesity, and those in middle-class neighborhoods have 17% higher odds, compared to children living in affluent neighborhoods. These statistics take into account such factors as household socioeconomic status, maternal education, and how much television the child watches. The researchers also found that children living in neighborhoods with a high proportion of foreign-born residents had approximately 20% lower odds of obesity.

The study reveals that living in neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty and lower levels of education is associated with increased child obesity risk, regardless of family composition or other individual factors.

“We know there are characteristics specific to families and individual children that are associated with obesity,” said Justin Denney, Associate Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research’s Urban Health Program at Rice University. “Those relationships are pretty well understood at this point, but less well understood are community influences, such as the social and demographic characteristics of the places people live. Neighborhood poverty is associated with childhood obesity above and beyond the poverty status of the child’s family and other individual and family characteristics. This tells us there is something about the community that is also influencing childhood obesity.”

Press release