Neighborhood influences on girls' obesity risk across the transition to adolescence

Pediatrics. 2014 Nov;134(5):942-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-1286. Epub 2014 Oct 13.


Background and objectives: The neighborhoods in which children live, play, and eat provide an environmental context that may influence obesity risk and ameliorate or exacerbate health disparities. The current study examines whether neighborhood characteristics predict obesity in a prospective cohort of girls.

Methods: Participants were 174 girls (aged 8-10 years at baseline), a subset from the Cohort Study of Young Girls' Nutrition, Environment, and Transitions. Trained observers completed street audits within a 0.25-mile radius around each girl's residence. Four scales (food and service retail, recreation, walkability, and physical disorder) were created from 40 observed neighborhood features. BMI was calculated from clinically measured height and weight. Obesity was defined as BMI-for-age ≥ 95%. Logistic regression models using generalized estimating equations were used to examine neighborhood influences on obesity risk over 4 years of follow-up, controlling for race/ethnicity, pubertal status, and baseline BMI. Fully adjusted models also controlled for household income, parent education, and a census tract measure of neighborhood socioeconomic status.

Results: A 1-SD increase on the food and service retail scale was associated with a 2.27 (95% confidence interval, 1.42 to 3.61; P < .001) increased odds of being obese. A 1-SD increase in physical disorder was associated with a 2.41 (95% confidence interval, 1.31 to 4.44; P = .005) increased odds of being obese. Other neighborhood scales were not associated with risk for obesity.

Conclusions: Neighborhood food and retail environment and physical disorder around a girl's home predict risk for obesity across the transition from late childhood to adolescence.

Keywords: adolescent development; neighborhood; obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment*