Friday, November 18, 2011

The Ties Between Income and Obesity

New study finds that as income rises, fast-food consumption rises. The LA Times,, further discusses the study, saying "the conventional wisdom goes something like this: Obesity rates are skyrocketing among the poorest Americans, therefore fast-food restaurants must be to blame. But a new study by a professor at UC Davis' medical school has found that it's Americans with salaries at the higher end of the spectrum—in some cases as high as $80,000 to $90,000—who are driving fast-food consumption at the likes of McDonald's and Burger King."

Other studies also support a wider view of what affects obesity rates in low-income neighborhoods. Black and Macinko ( find that neighborhood residential context is more closely associated with obesity. Residents of low-income neighborhoods are more likely to be obese and growing arguments suggest that inadequate access to food stores and supermarkets, and reduced opportunities for physical activity, have exacerbated poor health and promoted obesity. A recent study found that a “physical environment” score, combining characteristics of the walking environment and food availability, significantly predicted lower BMI. Increased availability of food amenities, fitness facilities, and commercial land use is associated with reduced obesity.

Additionally, there are cultural and social barriers that often exist in low-income areas or where there is income inequality - low trust and social support, cultural beliefs, norms and education, to name a few. Related, poverty is also tied to obesity because low-income individuals have less access to opportunities to be healthy even outside of their neighborhoods - low-paying jobs are less likely to offer health benefits or incentives to be well, for example. Chronic stress can also affect the chemistry of the body and change the body's metabolism and fat storage responses.

Because poverty exists in pockets, your health outcomes can be predicted well by where you live. These social determinants of health, along with the built environment and geography, and social policies that hinder integration of low and high-income populations almost ensure that disparately affected populations continue to be disparately affected indefinitely - unless we invest in communities in comprehensive ways.

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