Background: Where a person lives is not usually thought of as an independent predictor of his or her health, although physical and social features of places of residence may affect health and health-related behavior.
Methods: Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, we examined the relation between characteristics of neighborhoods and the incidence of coronary heart disease. Participants were 45 to 64 years of age at base line and were sampled from four study sites in the United States: Forsyth County, North Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; the northwestern suburbs of Minneapolis; and Washington County, Maryland. As proxies for neighborhoods, we used block groups containing an average of 1000 people, as defined by the U.S. Census. We constructed a summary score for the socioeconomic environment of each neighborhood that included information about wealth and income, education, and occupation.
Results: During a median of 9.1 years of follow-up, 615 coronary events occurred in 13,009 participants. Residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods (those with lower summary scores) had a higher risk of disease than residents of advantaged neighborhoods, even after we controlled for personal income, education, and occupation. Hazard ratios for coronary events in the most disadvantaged group of neighborhoods as compared with the most advantaged group--adjusted for age, study site, and personal socioeconomic indicators--were 1.7 among whites (95 percent confidence interval, 1.3 to 2.3) and 1.4 among blacks (95 percent confidence interval, 0.9 to 2.0). Neighborhood and personal socioeconomic indicators contributed independently to the risk of disease. Hazard ratios for coronary heart disease among low-income persons living in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods, as compared with high-income persons in the most advantaged neighborhoods were 3.1 among whites (95 percent confidence interval, 2.1 to 4.8) and 2.5 among blacks (95 percent confidence interval, 1.4 to 4.5). These associations remained unchanged after adjustment for established risk factors for coronary heart disease.
Conclusions: Even after controlling for personal income, education, and occupation, we found that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood is associated with an increased incidence of coronary heart disease.