An examination of processes linking perceived neighborhood disorder and obesity

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Jul;67(1):38-46. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.03.029. Epub 2008 Apr 21.


In this paper, we use data collected from a statewide probability sample of Texas, USA adults to test whether perceptions of neighborhood disorder are associated with increased risk of obesity. Building on prior research, we also test whether the association between neighborhood disorder and obesity is mediated by psychological, physiological, and behavioral mechanisms. We propose and test a theoretical model which suggests that psychological distress is a lynchpin mechanism that links neighborhood disorder with obesity risk through chronic activation of the physiological stress response, poor self-rated overall diet quality, and irregular exercise. The results of our analyses are generally consistent with this theoretical model. We find that neighborhood disorder is associated with increased risk of obesity, and this association is entirely mediated by psychological distress. We also observe that the positive association between psychological distress and obesity is fully mediated by physiological distress and poor self-rated overall diet quality and only partially mediated by irregular exercise.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Perception
  • Poverty Areas
  • Probability
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Problems
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Texas / epidemiology