Association of Long-Term Trajectories of Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status With Weight Change in Older Adults

JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Feb 1;4(2):e2036809. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.36809.


Importance: Studying long-term changes in neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) may help to better understand the associations between neighborhood exposure and weight outcomes and provide evidence supporting neighborhood interventions. Little previous research has been done to examine associations between neighborhood SES and weight loss, a risk factor associated with poor health outcomes in the older population.

Objective: To determine whether improvements in neighborhood SES are associated with reduced likelihoods of excessive weight gain and excessive weight loss and whether declines are associated with increased likelihoods of these weight outcomes.

Design, study, and participants: This cohort study was conducted using data from the National Institutes of Health-AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health study (1995-2006). The analysis included a cohort of 126 179 adults (aged 50-71 years) whose neighborhoods at baseline (1995-1996) were the same as at follow-up (2004-2006). All analyses were performed from December 2018 through December 2020.

Exposures: Living in a neighborhood that experienced 1 of 8 neighborhood SES trajectories defined based on a national neighborhood SES index created using data from the US Census and American Community Survey. The 8 trajectory groups, in which high, or H, indicated rankings at or above the sample median of a specific year and low, or L, indicated rankings below the median, were HHH (ie, high in 1990 to high in 2000 to high in 2010), or stable high; HLL, or early decline; HHL, or late decline; HLH, or transient decline; LLL, or stable low; LHH, or early improvement; LLH, or late improvement; and LHL, or transient improvement.

Main outcomes and measures: Excessive weight gain and loss were defined as gaining or losing 10% or more of baseline weight.

Results: Among 126 179 adults, 76 225 (60.4%) were men and the mean (SD) age was 62.1 (5.3) years. Improvements in neighborhood SES were associated with lower likelihoods of excessive weight gain and weight loss over follow-up, while declines in neighborhood SES were associated with higher likelihoods of excessive weight gain and weight loss. Compared with the stable low group, the risk was significantly reduced for excessive weight gain in the early improvement group (odds ratio [OR], 0.87; 95% CI, 0.79-0.95) and for excessive weight loss in the late improvement group (OR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.80-1.00). Compared with the stable high group, the risk of excessive weight gain was significantly increased for the early decline group (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.08-1.31) and late decline group (OR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.04-1.24) and for excessive weight loss in the early decline group (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.02-1.28). The increases in likelihood were greater when the improvement or decline in neighborhood SES occurred early in the study period (ie, 1990-2000) and was substantiated throughout the follow-up (ie, the early decline and early improvement groups). Overall, we found a linear association between changes in neighborhood SES and weight outcomes, in which every 5 percentile decline in neighborhood SES was associated with a 1.2% to 2.4% increase in the risk of excessive weight gain or loss (excessive weight gain: OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 1.00-1.02 for women; OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.03 for men; excessive weight loss: OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.03 for women; OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.03 for men; P for- trend < .0001).

Conclusions and relevance: These findings suggest that changing neighborhood environment was associated with changes in weight status in older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body-Weight Trajectory*
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Housing / trends
  • Humans
  • Income / trends
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Assistance / trends
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Single-Parent Family
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Unemployment / trends
  • United States
  • Weight Gain
  • Weight Loss