Neighborhood safety and overweight status in children

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006 Jan;160(1):25-31. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.160.1.25.


Objective: To determine if there is a relationship between parental perception of neighborhood safety and overweight at the age of 7 years.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.

Setting: Ten urban and rural US sites.

Participants: A total of 768 children selected via conditional random sampling with complete data at follow-up.

Main outcome measures: Parents reported demographics and perception of neighborhood safety by standardized questionnaire. Child overweight status was defined as a body mass index greater than or equal to the 95th percentile for age and sex from measured anthropometrics at the age of 7 years. The base model included relationship of the safety reporter to the child, sex, and baseline body mass index z score at the age of 4.5 years. Covariates tested included maternal marital status, education, and depressive symptoms; child race/ethnicity; participation in structured after-school activities; Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment total score; and neighborhood social cohesiveness.

Results: The sample was 85% white, and 10% of the children were overweight. Neighborhood safety ratings in the lowest quartile were independently associated with a higher risk of overweight at the age of 7 years compared with safety ratings in the highest quartile (adjusted odds ratio, 4.43; 95% confidence interval, 2.03-9.65). None of the candidate covariates altered the relationship between perception of neighborhood safety and child overweight status.

Conclusions: Perception of the neighborhood as less safe was independently associated with an increased risk of overweight at the age of 7 years. Public health efforts may benefit from policies directed toward improving both actual and perceived neighborhood safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Perception
  • Regression Analysis
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Safety*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population