Background: Despite increasing interest in the extent to which features of residential environments contribute to incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, no multisite prospective studies have investigated this question. We hypothesized that neighborhood resources supporting physical activity and healthy diets are associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.
Methods: Person-level data came from 3 sites of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a population-based, prospective study of adults aged 45 to 84 years at baseline. Neighborhood data were derived from a population-based residential survey. Type 2 diabetes was defined as a fasting glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher (> or =7 mmol/L) or taking insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents. We estimated the hazard ratio of type 2 diabetes incidence associated with neighborhood (US Census tract) resources.
Results: Among 2285 participants, 233 new type 2 diabetes cases occurred during a median of 5 follow-up years. Better neighborhood resources, determined by a combined score for physical activity and healthy foods, were associated with a 38% lower incidence of type 2 diabetes (hazard ratio corresponding to a difference between the 90th and 10th percentiles for resource distribution, 0.62; 95% confidence interval, 0.43-0.88 adjusted for age, sex, family history of diabetes, race/ethnicity, income, assets, educational level, alcohol use, and smoking status). The association remained statistically significant after further adjustment for individual dietary factors, physical activity level, and body mass index.
Conclusion: Better neighborhood resources were associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, which suggests that improving environmental features may be a viable population-level strategy for addressing this disease.