Parents, take note. Children who grow up in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are nearly one-third more likely to experience obesity as adults, warn researchers. “Growing up in a disadvantaged neighbourhood sticks with you and can have a negative impact on one’s health through increasing one’s chance of obesity in adulthood,” according to a study lead by author Steven Alvarado, professor at Cornell University.
The research further reveals that the chance of experiencing obesity in adulthood is 16 per cent greater among children up to age 10 who live in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and 29 per cent greater for adolescents age 11 to 18. Overall, the odds rose 31 per cent.
The research team defined “disadvantaged” neighbourhoods based on seven variables, including median income and home values and the percentage of residents who were living in poverty, unemployed or had earned bachelor’s degrees.
The research accounted for these factors by comparing siblings. The siblings largely shared the same genes and parenting habits but may have experienced different neighbourhood circumstances growing up, because their families have moved or their neighbourhoods changed over time between sibling births.
The study is the first to adjust for criteria such as grandparents’ experiences in segregated schools and neighbourhoods, while exploring the link between growing up in tough neighbourhoods and adult obesity.
“We must continue to consider the context in which individuals are making decisions, the neighbourhood resources that could serve as catalysts or suppressors for any genetic predispositions toward obesity in adulthood,” he said.