Your Neighborhood and Your Health
DOES WHERE YOU LIVE in your 20s and 30s affect your health in later life?
Jeannette Rogowski, PhD, University Professor in Health Economics at the School of Public Health, with labor economists at the University of California and the University of Michigan, decided to tackle this question.
The research team had access to studies from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), which collects data on socioeconomics and health "over lifetimes across generations." Between 1968 and 1997, PSID conducted interviews with more than 18,000 individuals living in 5,000 families in the U.S. Since then, interviews have been biennial. Survey content changes to reflect evolving scientific and policy priorities, although many content areas have been consistently measured since 1968. Information includes employment, income, wealth, expenditures, health, education, marriage, childbearing, philanthropy, and numerous other topics.
"Using this unique data," Rogowski explains, "the estimates suggest that disparities in neighborhood conditions experienced in young adulthood account for one-quarter of the variation in mid-to-late life health." She also notes that three-quarters of the black-white gap in health status for those over 55 are attributable to childhood socioeconomic status and neighborhood and family factors.
The research study took five years to complete and used a statistical estimation technique known as "four-level hierarchical random effects models." This technique studied the association between self-assessed general health status and neighborhood factors; the study controlled for individual and family factors.
One of the important findings is that living in poor neighborhoods during young adulthood is strongly associated with negative health outcomes in later life, including disability, chronic conditions and obesity. The team's paper, "Health Disparities in Mid-to-Late Life: The Role of Earlier Life Family and Neighborhood Socioeconomic Conditions," was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.
Rogowski collaborated with Rucker Johnson, PhD, an associate professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley, and Robert Schoeni, PhD, a research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and co-director of PSID.
"There are only a few studies, mostly from other countries, that
analyze the effect of neighborhoods of residence earlier in life on
late-life health," Rogowski notes. "The results of this study highlight
the need for further research in order to understand which aspects of
neighborhoods are most influential in determining health in later life
and health disparities."
— Barbara Hurley