Friday, February 4, 2011

Research News: Tight knit communities help protect against obesity

Adapted from the Cornell Chronicle:

Growing up poor increases a person's chances of health problems as an adult, but a new study shows that being raised in a tight-knit community can help offset this disadvantage of poverty.

Poor adolescents who live in communities with more social cohesiveness are less likely to be obese, reports the study, published in January's Psychological Science journal.

Environmental psychologist Gary W. Evans, a Cornell professor, and co-author Rachel Kutcher measured health and risk factors of several hundred upstate New York youths as nine year olds and again as teenagers.

For example, mothers were asked to say how much they agreed that "one of my neighbors would do something if they saw someone trying to sell drugs to a child or youth in plain sight" and the teenagers were asked whether they had adults whom they could ask for advice. The teens had their height and weight measured.

The study found that teens from connected communities had lower body-mass index, a measure of obesity.

"You may be able to loosen those connections between early childhood poverty and negative health outcomes if you live in a community with good social resources," Evans said.

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