Neighbourhood matters

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A RISK Your living conditions reflect your health
A RISK Your living conditions reflect your health

Living in poor neighbourhood may increase the risk for heart disease

Living in a poor neighbourhood may increase the risk for heart disease, a Swedish study reports. In a prospective study of 3.7 million men and women ages 35 to 74, researchers found that people who live in poor neighbourhoods are significantly more likely to develop coronary artery disease than people who live in the best areas. The scientists categorised neighbourhoods as low, moderate or high deprivation using Swedish Government demographic and socio-economic statistics. They determined the number of cases of heart disease, and deaths from it, using the Swedish Hospital Discharge Register and the Cause of Death Register from 1996 through 2000. There were more than 130,000 cases of heart disease and more than 3,500 deaths during the period. After controlling for age, income, employment status, education level and whether the person was receiving social welfare payments, researchers found that men from the most deprived neighbourhoods were 1.5 times as likely to develop coronary heart disease as men from the least deprived areas. Women from deprived neighbourhoods were almost twice as likely to develop heart disease as those living in the best districts. The prospective design and the large number of cases give the study strength, but there was no data on health behaviours, quality of health care or other risk factors that could affect the conclusions. Still, said Marilyn A. Winkleby, the lead author and a professor of medicine at Stanford University: "In a poor neighbourhood, the resources to support healthy lifestyles are less likely to be available, and our personal risk factors are influenced by our environments. This study builds on a growing body of literature in the U.S. and other countries." The study appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. (NYT)




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