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Growing Up Poor May Increase Risk of Obesity

Growing Up Poor May Increase Risk of Obesity

New research on the social determinants of health reveals that the length of time children and young adults live in poor neighborhoods, the more likely they will be obese later in life.

University of Colorado Denver researchers discovered adolescents who grow up and consistently live in poor neighborhoods are more likely to become or remain obese in adulthood than their peers who live in more affluent areas.

Sadly, these patterns are more pronounced for young women.

Dr. Adam Lippert, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, lead the study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Lippert examined national survey data from students in grades seven through 12 that were followed over a period of 13 years.

He discovered the odds of becoming obese varied for young men and women as they entered, exited or consistently lived in poor neighborhoods during the transition to adulthood.

The study shows that when teens move out of low-income neighborhoods, their risk of obesity decreases, while moving into a poor neighborhood increases the risk.

And consistently living in poor areas puts young people at greatest risk for becoming or remaining obese in the future.

Experts say this is one of a few recent studies to illustrate the health consequences of residential inequalities in the U.S.

Still, how does living in a poor neighborhood increase the risk of obesity? Researchers hypothesize that the link between poverty and obesity is partially attributed to the lack of exercise amenities, healthy food sources and increased stress in low-income areas.

“The research demonstrates that the long-term residential experiences of teenagers can affect their lifelong health,” said Lippert.

“It’s encouraging to see that the risk of obesity can be curtailed by moving out of a low-income areas.”

Lippert’s results suggest that providing teenagers with resources to improve their residential circumstances as they enter adulthood can positively impact their life and health.

Source: University of Colorado Denver

Growing Up Poor May Increase Risk of Obesity

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Growing Up Poor May Increase Risk of Obesity. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 17 Mar 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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