Association Between Neighborhood-Level Poverty and Incident Atrial Fibrillation: a Retrospective Cohort Study

J Gen Intern Med. 2022 May;37(6):1436-1443. doi: 10.1007/s11606-021-06976-2. Epub 2021 Jul 8.


Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a leading cause of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. While neighborhood-level factors, such as poverty, have been related to prevalence of AF risk factors, the association between neighborhood poverty and incident AF has been limited.

Objective: Using a large cohort from a health system serving the greater Chicago area, we sought to determine the association between neighborhood-level poverty and incident AF.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Participants: Adults, aged 30 to 80 years, without baseline cardiovascular disease from January 1, 2005, to December 31, 2018.

Main measures: We geocoded and matched residential addresses of all eligible patients to census-level poverty estimates from the American Community Survey. Neighborhood-level poverty (low, intermediate, and high) was defined as the proportion of residents in the census tract living below the federal poverty threshold. We used generalized linear mixed effects models with a logit link function to examine the association between neighborhood poverty and incident AF, adjusting for patient demographic and clinical AF risk factors.

Key results: Among 28,858 in the cohort, patients in the high poverty group were more often non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic and had higher rates of AF risk factors. Over 5 years of follow-up, 971 (3.4%) patients developed incident AF. Of these, 502 (51.7%) were in the low poverty, 327 (33.7%) in the intermediate poverty, and 142 (14.6%) in the high poverty group. The adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of AF was higher for the intermediate poverty compared with that for the low poverty group (aOR 1.23 [95% CI 1.01-1.48]). The point estimate for the aOR of AF incidence was similar, but not statistically significant, for the high poverty compared with the low poverty group (aOR 1.25 [95% CI 0.98-1.59]).

Conclusion: In adults without baseline cardiovascular disease managed in a large, integrated health system, intermediate neighborhood poverty was significantly associated with incident AF. Understanding neighborhood-level drivers of AF disparities will help achieve equitable care.

Keywords: atrial fibrillation; neighborhood; poverty; social determinants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Poverty
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors