Poor housing conditions contribute to the risk of diabetes in urban, middle-aged people, a new study has found.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Mario Schootman at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
As part of the study which grew out of a larger health study involving African-Americans, to see why some people were more likely to develop diabetes. Researchers looked at its many risk factors including weight, smoking, exercise, alcohol use, marital status and education and spoke to participants in their homes.
In the original study, researchers looked at several factors responsible for the higher incidence of health problems experienced by later middle-aged and older African-Americans living in St. Louis. That original study gathered data from 998 African-Americans in the St. Louis area who were born between 1936 and 1950.
They gathered data about health status, access to medical care and demographic characteristics, and rated neighbourhoods based on noise, air quality and the conditions of houses, streets, yards and sidewalks. Things like broken windows, bad siding on homes, cracks in the sidewalks and nearby industrial sites or traffic noise lowered a neighbourhood's rating.
Houses were rated based on cleanliness inside of the building and the physical condition of the building's interior and exterior, as well as the condition of the furnishings in the building.
Neighbourhoods and houses then were classified as fair, poor, good or excellent. Housing included both apartments and single-family homes, and housing conditions rated as fair or poor were associated with increased risks for diabetes.
The study found that housing conditions influenced diabetes risk when all other factors were adjusted.
Researchers noted that individuals who lived in poor housing conditions might be more likely to be under stress as a function of where they lived. There are known links between stress and diabetes that could help explain the increased incidence of diabetes in this population.
The study also found that although there was no direct association with neighbourhood conditions, sub-standard housing more than doubled diabetes risk.
"So far we can't explain why that is. It could potentially be related to lead. Lead is associated with the development of diabetes, and we know that in some poorer housing conditions, there's likely to be lead exposure. But it also could be related to other, unknown environmental contaminants," Schootman said.
The findings of the study were published in the August issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.