Obesity in a rough neighborhood

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 16th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Obesity just might be one more hazard of growing up in a rough neighborhood.

Parents who keep their kids indoors to protect them from danger and crime may be inviting another threat… weight gain.

A recent University of Michigan study revealed that seven-year-olds who live in neighborhoods their parents rated unsafe were more likely to be overweight than kids raised in neighborhoods parents thought were safe.

Seventeen percent of the children raised in neighborhoods parents considered to be the most unsafe were overweight. In contrast, only four percent of kids living in neighborhoods parents rated to be the safest were overweight.

Researchers questioned healthy parents of seven-hundred-sixty-eight schoolchildren who lived in ten regions, including large cities and small towns from across the nation.

The researchers didn’t survey parents about what indoor activities their children participated in, nor did they look at actual crime statistics. Instead they assessed parents’ perceptions of the neighborhoods by asking them about how satisfied they were with police protection and the prevalence of illegal drug activity.

Race also played a role in parents’ perceptions of their neighborhoods independent of their socioeconomic status. White parents were significantly more likely than non-white parents to perceive their neighborhood as safe.

People who live in cities or areas they consider unsafe might use this information to plan extra physical activities for their children. And researchers suggest physicians also consider it as they weigh a child’s overall health and the need to counsel them about obesity prevention.