Adolescents living in a poor neighborhood are at increased risk of
getting infected with chlamydia in young adulthood, says new research. Chlamydial infection is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by
bacteria in both men and women. Persisting chlamydia can cause scarring and
infertility issues in women.
Researchers at Ohio State University analyzed data from a large national
study that tracked youths over time. They
observed that children who lived in poor neighborhoods during their teenage
years had an almost 25 per cent greater risk of having chlamydial infection in
their early 20s - even if they themselves weren't poor - than did teenagers
living in wealthier settings. The
study is published in a recent issue of the Journal
of Urban Health
The observed negative impact of life in an impoverished neighborhood
was found to be unaffected by other known STI risk factors, such as depression,
having multiple sex partners or beginning sexual activity at a very young age.
This meant that the increased risk was not because of an increased likelihood
of sexual risk-taking behaviors or depression during adolescence.
Data were obtained from the National Longitudinal
Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and included three separate interviews
of 11,460 youths who participated in the national project. During the first interview, the
average age of the children studied was 15.6 years; by the time of the third
interview, these same participants were between 18 and 27 years old.
"There is a long-term effect of living in poverty
on the risk for sexually transmitted infections in young adulthood, above and
beyond behavioral issues," said Jodi Ford, lead author of the study and an
assistant professor of nursing at Ohio State. "We have a lot of interventions
trying to address sexual risk behaviors, but few target neighborhood poverty
and disadvantage. And this work shows that living in a poor neighborhood can
have a long-term effect on health."
The prevalence of chlamydia among the young adults
surveyed was 4.6 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that 2.86 million infections occur annually. Since most people do not
have symptoms, they do not seek testing and hence most cases remain unreported.
strengthens the evidence that to fully address the sexual health needs of this
population, STI prevention efforts should also acknowledge the effects of
neighborhood poverty," said Ford.