Living in a poorer or more socioeconomically deprived neighbourhood could increase a person's risk for death, despite his or her dietary and lifestyle risk factors, according to a new study.
In the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, researchers found that people living in poorer neighbourhoods, as determined by U.S. Census data, reported higher health risks, including heart disease and cancer.
People living in poorer areas were also more likely to die sooner regardless of lifestyle and other risk factors.
"We were expecting that once we controlled for these lifestyle and medical risk factors, the differences would go away. We weren't surprised by the unadjusted differences, but we were surprised that the differences persisted after controlling for lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, exercise and medical risks," said Dr. Chyke Doubeni, at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Previous data have demonstrated that people from lower socioeconomic groups have poorer health outcomes.
The researchers prospectively evaluated whether people living in more deprived neighbourhoods have a higher mortality risk.
The results of the study revealed that a larger percentage of participants living in the most deprived neighborhoods reported poorer general health, higher average body mass index and lower Mediterranean diet scores, meaning that their diets were unhealthy.
Controlling for dietary and lifestyle factors increased the risk for death as the levels of deprivation in the neighbourhood increased.
"We, as practitioners, either in the health care systems or clinics, should be alert to the needs of people from these backgrounds. We need to target public health interventions to these neighborhoods that are deprived by improving health resources and the physical environments in those areas," said Doubeni.
The study was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.