Objectives: This study sought to determine the relationships between race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), and cardiovascular health behaviors among youths and whether neighborhood characteristics are associated with such behaviors independently of individual characteristics.
Methods: Linear models determined the effects of individual and neighborhood characteristics (SES, social disorganization, racial/ethnic minority concentration, urbanization) on dietary habits, physical activity, and smoking among 8165 youths aged 12 to 21 years.
Results: Low SES was associated with poorer dietary habits, less physical activity, and higher odds of smoking. After adjustment for SES, Black race was associated with poorer dietary habits and lower odds of smoking. Hispanic ethnicity was associated with healthier dietary habits, lower levels of physical activity, and lower odds of smoking than non-Hispanic ethnicity. Low neighborhood SES and high neighborhood social disorganization were independently associated with poorer dietary habits, while high neighborhood Hispanic concentration and urbanicity were associated with healthier dietary habits. Neighborhood characteristics were not associated with physical activity or smoking.
Conclusions: Changes in neighborhood social structures and policies that reduce social inequalities may enhance cardiovascular health behaviors.