Growing up in a poor neighborhood may put people at higher risk for obesity later in life, a new study finds.
Researchers looked at data from American students in grades 7 through 12. The kids’ health was then followed for 13 years.
The risk of future obesity increased when teens moved into poor neighborhoods and decreased when they moved out of poor areas, the investigators found.
Teens who consistently lived in poor neighborhoods had the highest risk of becoming or remaining obese in the future, the study authors said.
“The research demonstrates that the long-term residential experiences of teenagers can affect their life-long health,” study author Adam Lippert, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver, said in a university news release.
“It’s encouraging to see that the risk of obesity can be curtailed by moving out of a low-income area,” he added.
Possible reasons for the link between poverty and obesity include lack of exercise opportunities and access to healthy food, as well as higher levels of stress in poor neighborhoods, the researchers suggested.
However, while the study found an association between growing up in a poor neighborhood and later obesity, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains how to prevent overweight and obesity.