Two new studies suggest that the health of an individual in old age may be influenced by the surrounding neighborhood.
Researchers at the Peninsula Medical School, South West England have found strong links between neighbourhood deprivation and the physical and intellectual health of older people.
They found that middle-aged and elderly people in poor neighbourhoods are 'significantly more likely' to suffer mobility and cognitive problems.
Researchers conducted two studies using data on participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA).
In the first study, researchers investigated over 7,000 individuals aged 52 and older who lived in urban areas across England.
They found that even when individual differences in education and income were taken into account, people who lived in the most deprived areas were significantly more likely to have poorer cognitive function than those living in the least deprived areas.
The results represent a cause for concern because poor cognitive function in older people is closely linked to the risk of developing dementia.
In the second study, which involved 4,148 individuals aged 60 and over, researchers assessed whether mobility disability and neighbourhood deprivation are linked.
Over a two-year period, researchers found that 13.6 percent of those in the most deprived areas developed problems with mobility as compared to 4.0 percent of those in the least deprived areas.
Like the first study, the second study took into account individual differences in income, education, and health.
"These findings show the first direct links between the state of a neighbourhood and levels of functioning among its middle-aged and older residents," said Dr. Iain Lang from the Peninsula Medical School, who led the research for both studies.
"For both men and women, those living in deprived areas have poorer cognitive function and higher rates of mobility problems than their counterparts in 'better' areas," he added.