Thursday, February 23, 2006

Neighborhood may help prevent childhood obesity

A new article in the journal Social Science and Medicine suggests that the neighborhood an adolescent lives in may influence his or her development of obesity.

Specifically, here are some of the findings of this study:

  • The study included 807 adolescents and 3000 adults.

  • The researchers found significant factors such as close-knit neighborhoods exhibited an effect on obesity rates in adults and children.

  • Close-knit neighborhoods were characterized as having strong collective efficacy -- neighbors get along and are willing to help each other, and many adults are role models for adolescents.

  • Adolescents who lived in neighborhoods with high levels of collective efficacy were also less likely to be overweight or at risk for overweight and had a lower body mass index -- a ratio of weight to height -- than did their peers in other neighborhoods.

  • Adolescents in low-collective efficacy neighborhoods, on the other hand, were 64 percent more likely to be at-risk-for-overweight and 52 percent more likely to be overweight than those living in neighborhoods with an average level of collective efficacy.

  • The reason for the association is unknown, but the researcher speculated that children in neighborhoods with high collective efficacy may be more likely to play outside rather than sit inside and watch television. Or, she said, "maybe (their) neighborhoods look different," with more parks and fewer fast food restaurants.

It is interesting that this study fits into a transactional model of psychopathology.

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