Growing up in a neighborhood where families feel unsafe can increase the odds that a child will become obese, a new study concludes.
A summary of “Neighborhood Safety and Overweight Status in Children” is available from Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
The study—published Jan. 1 in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine—is based on data on 768 randomly selected children in 10 rural and urban communities across the nation. At age 7, the researchers found, children growing up in communities perceived to be dangerous were four times more likely to be overweight than their counterparts in the neighborhoods considered safest.
The researchers suggest that one possible reason for the difference is that children in neighborhoods that appear to be dangerous may get less outdoor exercise time. The researchers said their findings call for directing more public-health efforts toward improving communities’ safety, whether real or perceived.