It’s well documented that poverty and bad health have a strong connection. A team of researchers wondered if simply moving from a low-income to middle class neighborhood could make a person healthier.
Turns out that it does, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine does. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development researchers studied three groups. One group stayed in poor neighborhoods. Another group received rent subsidies to move into middle class neighborhoods. The third group received the same subsidies to help with rent, but remained in poor neighborhoods. The results: the group who moved to the middle class neighborhood were 5 percent less likely to be obese and show signs of diabetes. The people who stayed in the poor neighborhoods, even with the help of extra money, experienced no improvement in health.
There’s a Science Now quote from the study author, Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist at Harvard Medical School who examines the effect of social ties on health, saying that “the experiment clearly shows that the neighborhood effect is real…but the mechanisms remain murky. Is it the shops and restaurants, the parks and pools..or the people in a neighborhood that affect you most?”
About the author
Blogger, CommonHealth Rachel Zimmerman worked as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal for 10 years, most recently covering health and medicine out of the paper’s Boston bureau. Rachel has also written for The New York Times, the (now-defunct) Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the alternative newspaper Willamette Week, in Portland, Ore., among other publications. Rachel co-wrote a book about birth, published by Bantam/Random House, and spent 2008 as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. Rachel lives in Cambridge with her husband and two daughters. View all posts by Rachel Zimmerman →
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