Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Social capital, neighborhood income and overweight across Europe

People with lower socio-economic status -lower levels of education, income and/or job status- in general have poorer health and engage more in unhealthy life style behaviors such as unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity. They also tend to have higher body weight and are more likely to be overweight or obese. Neighbourhood income inequality may contribute to such differences in body weight. In a paper just published in the European Journal of Public Health -with Joreintje Mackenbach as first author- we explored whether neighbourhood social capital mediated the association of neighbourhood income inequality with individual body mass index (BMI). For this study data from the SPOTLIGHT project -a study in different urban regions across Europe to explore neighbourhood contextual determinants of overweight and obesity-were used. A total of 4126 adult participants from 48 neighbourhoods in France, Hungary, the Netherlands and the UK provided information on their levels of income, perceptions of neighbourhood social capital and BMI. Higher neighbourhood income inequality was associated with elevated levels of BMI a
nd lower levels of neighbourhood social networks and neighbourhood social cohesion. High levels of neighbourhood social networks were associated with lower BMI. Results stratified by country demonstrated that social networks fully explained the association between income inequality and BMI in France and the Netherlands. Social cohesion was only a significant mediating variable for Dutch participants. In conclusion our results suggest that in some European urban regions, neighbourhood social capital plays a large role in the association between neighbourhood income inequality and individual BMI.