Associations Between Neighborhood Environment, Health Behaviors, and Mortality

Am J Prev Med. 2018 Jan;54(1):87-95. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.09.002.


Introduction: Considering the joint association of neighborhood socioeconomic environment and individual-level health behaviors with health outcomes may help officials design effective disease prevention strategies. This study evaluates the joint influences of neighborhood socioeconomic environment and individual health behaviors on mortality in a cohort primarily comprising people with low individual-level SES.

Methods: The prospective Southern Community Cohort Study includes 77,896 white and African American participants recruited in the years 2002-2009; 55% of participants had a household income <$15,000 at baseline interview. Mortality from cancer (n=2,471), cardiovascular diseases (n=3,005), and all-causes (n=10,099) was identified from the National Death Index through December 31, 2013 (median follow-up, 8 years). Data were analyzed in 2016 and 2017. Associations were assessed between mortality, a neighborhood deprivation index composed of 11 census tract-level variables, five health behaviors, and a composite healthy lifestyle score.

Results: Living in a neighborhood with the greatest socioeconomic disadvantage was associated with higher all-cause mortality in both men (hazard ratio=1.41, 95% CI=1.27, 1.57) and women (hazard ratio=1.77, 95% CI=1.57, 2.00). Associations were attenuated after adjustment for individual-level SES and major risk factors (hazard ratio for men=1.09, 95% CI=0.98, 1.22, and hazard ratio for women=1.26, 95% CI=1.12, 1.42). The dose-response association between neighborhood disadvantage and mortality was less apparent among smokers. Nevertheless, individuals who lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods and had the unhealthiest lifestyle scores experienced the highest mortality.

Conclusions: Disadvantaged neighborhood socioeconomic environments are associated with increased mortality in a cohort of individuals of low SES. Positive individual-level health behaviors may help negate the adverse effect of disadvantage on mortality.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Poverty
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors*