Residential Instability & Obesity over Time: The Role of Social & Built Environment
Health and Place (January 2015)
Alumnus Antwan Jones, PhD (NC 2011) published findings from his research exploring the correlation between residential instability and obesity risk in the United States. In the study, Dr. Jones extracts data from a retrospective longitudinal cohort sample of nearly 14,000 racially diverse adolescents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adult Health and the Obesity and Neighborhood Environment database. He does this to capture demographic, socioeconomic, and familial characteristics, as well as community level-data. Results demonstrate that environmental changes between past and present residential moves contribute to obesity outcomes. In particular, adolescents who moved to an environment that provided qualitatively better amenities than previous community of residence were less likely to be obese. Health promoting neighborhood factors (e.g., greater access to physical activity resources, more quality supermarkets, lower number of fast-food establishments, and less crime) or upward mobility, are attributed to a reduction in the risk of being obese. Thus, mobility is not a predictor of obesity risk, but rather the spatial environment. The study has implications for health disparities research that implicates the impact of negative neighborhood factors on child obesity risk, and the importance of developing the built environment.