How location, particularly living in the city, affects health

Two sociologists argue that location, particularly living in poor neighborhoods in large cities, can lead to more negative health outcomes:

“When trying to understand a person’s health and well-being, we believe that their zip code may be just as important a number to their physical health as their blood pressure or glucose level,” Fitzpatrick says in a statement.

Fitzpatrick and Mark LaGory of the University of Alabama at Birmingham have authored, “In Unhealthy Cities: Poverty, Race, and Place in America,” about high-poverty urban neighborhoods and the health of Americans…

For example, there have been numerous studies on how a concentration of fast-food restaurants in poor, predominantly minority neighborhoods impacts the health of the residents, while other studies show many of these poor neighborhoods may not have a single grocery store offering fresh, nutritious food or safe places to exercise.

“Some parts of the city seemed to be designed to make people sick,” the authors say.

These conclusions are not surprising though they may contribute to the growing field of the sociology of wellness. I particularly like the last quote: “Some parts of the city seemed to be designed to make people sick.” This leads to a question: how could cities or neighborhoods be designed to make people healthy?

Reading about this reminded me about some of the rationale used by some of the first suburban residents in England and the United States. Among other factors, the suburbs were said to be healthier and have cleaner air. The big city, particularly by the late 1800s, was viewed as dirty and crowded. The single-family home allowed families to spread out and take in more of the country air.

I would be curious to see if this study, or other studies, could provide estimates of life expectancy for people with similar socio-economic status living in different locations.

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