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The lasting impact of where we live

The neighbourhoods we live in influence how we behave and ultimately shape our health outcomes. Regardless of how much money an individual earns, if they live in a less-affluent neighbourhood evidence would tell us that they will have poorer health outcomes than if they lived in a more affluent neighbourhood. This effect is particularly strong when looking at obesity and diabetes.

While this has been long understood, little is known about when risk factors emerge in childhood and adulthood in individuals living in socioeconomically different neighbourhoods, and the cumulative effect of disadvantage over childhood. Researchers from Finland set out to answer this question through a population cohort, where participants were measured at repeated intervals for adiposity and behavioural risk factors. By linking postal codes to neighbourhood deprivation scores, researchers assessed the impact of living conditions on diabetes outcomes.

They found that detrimental lifestyle factors by neighbourhood living conditions are present right from childhood and worsen into adulthood. These risk factors accumulate over time to accelerate increased rates of obesity, hypertension and fatty liver by middle age.

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