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Posh Neighborhoods Tough on Poorer Residents' Health

Low-income people died earlier than if they lived in less-affluent areas, study found

FRIDAY, Nov. 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Poor people who happen to live in a well-to-do neighborhood actually have a greater death risk than if they lived in a less-affluent locale, new research shows.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine tracked 8,200 people living in 82 neighborhoods in Monterey, Modesto, Salinas and San Luis Obispo, Calif., for 17 years.

They found that 19 out of every 1,000 women of low socioeconomic status who lived in wealthier neighborhoods had died, compared with 11 out of every 1,000 women from poorer neighborhoods.

The rates were similar for men.

Age and factors such as obesity, hypertension and smoking did not explain the results, the researchers said. Nor did access to neighborhood goods and services, such as health care, grocery stores, parks and gyms.

There are two possible explanations, according to the study authors. One is economic: The cost of living in an affluent neighborhood may leave poor people with little disposable income to spend on essential goods and services, such as health care and healthy food, and less time to take advantage of the benefits of living in such a neighborhood.

It's also possible that, due to their social position compared to those around them, poorer people in affluent neighborhoods suffer psychological and social stress, which can have an impact on health.

The researchers said the findings suggest that poor people who live in affluent neighborhoods may be medically underserved and require more targeted health services and attention by policy makers.

The study is in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

More information

Find out more on disparities in health and health care at the Center for Practical Bioethics.

SOURCE: Stanford University Medical Center, news release, Oct. 31, 2006
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