(RxWiki News) Moving on up in life has its benefits, including better health. Where you live can reduce the odds of a mother developing diabetes or becoming obese - both conditions that can shorten a woman’s life.
The research show that simply changing your living environment is an effective way to improve your health.
"Living in a better area reduces your risk of diabetes and obesity."
Researchers found that the rates of obesity and diabetes among the mothers living in less impoverished areas were 20% lower compared to women living in more impoverished areas. In the higher-income-area women, 17% were morbidly obese (with a body mass index at 40 or higher) and 29% had diabetes.
This shows that environments in poorer neighborhoods contribute to poor health, said lead author Jens Ludwig, the McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law and Public Policy at University of Chicago, in a press release.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tracked 4,498 women and kids who lived in public housing between 1994 and 1998. They were from five cities: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Some of these families moved into a higher-income area, while others were not moved into such an area.
In 2008 to 2010, the researchers revisited these families and measured their heights and weights, and drew blood samples to test for diabetes.
Certain aspects of a “poorer” lifestyle can lead to diabetes and obesity. These include fewer opportunities for physical activity, feeling less safe and more stressed, and not having the money - or knowledge - to eat nutritiously.
Improving the environments of poorer urban neighborhoods can help improve the quality and length of life for residents, said study co-author and obesity/diabetes expert Robert Whitaker, professor of Public Health and Pediatrics at Temple University.
Quality of life has a huge impact on women, according to Susan McDowell, executive director at LifeWorks, a shelter in Austin that provides social and counseling services.
“A safe, uplifting environment has the power to [improve] the well-being of women,” she said in an interview.
Even simple changes to a woman’s current home environment can be beneficial.
In one of LifeWorks’ programs, volunteers gave home-improvement makeovers to young mothers and formerly homeless youth. “The effect of the new environment is immediate and transformative in every area of their lives,” said McDowell.
And according to the latest study, improved health - both physical and mental - will lengthen the womens' lives.
The University of Chicago study also helps explain why some ethnic groups have higher rates of obesity and diabetes. According to the researchers, minorities are more likely to live in distressed areas, compared to whites.
And numerous studies have proven that minorities tend to have more health problems, and it’s only getting worse.
Blacks, for example, face a doubled risk of developing diabetes, compared to whites, and 1.5 times more likely to be obese, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The latest research suggests that being immersed in a distressed area is what’s contributing to greater health problems among blacks.
The study was supported by HUD, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others.