The majority of adults in the United States, 60%, are currently living with a chronic condition; however, the rate of chronic conditions is not equal across the country. Large geographic health disparities exist in the United States. For example, adults in Mississippi are 50% more likely to have a chronic condition than those living in Colorado. In Denver alone, the rate of chronic conditions varies 3-fold across zip codes.
According to the study, one explanation is that there are significantly different societal factors affecting those who live in Mississippi compared with Colorado, such as age, socio-economic status, and gender. Another explication is that the place where a person lives actively affects their health.
The study included approximately 5 million adults treated at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilitates in the United States. Of the 5 million participants, 1 million changed zip codes whereas 4 million did not move. Patients were treated at the VHA facilities between 2008 and 2018.
Investigators found that a person’s risk of an uncontrolled chronic condition increased after moving to a place where the uncontrolled chronic condition was common. According to the study, moving from a zip code ranked in the top ten for a particular chronic condition to a 90th-ranked zip code increased the prevalence of uncontrolled blood pressure by 7%, uncontrolled diabetes by 1%, obesity by 2%, and depressive symptoms by 3% among movers.
“This study confirms something Americans are currently acutely aware of—where you live affects your health. By evaluating medical records of millions of adults before and after they moved to a new neighborhood, we showed that where a person moved to affected their risk of having a poorly controlled chronic condition,” corresponding author Aaron Baum, PhD, said in the press release. “In addition to individual behaviors like healthy eating and exercise, our findings suggest that local and regional factors substantially influence the health of the 60% of American adults who have a chronic condition.”
Mount Sinai researchers find that where people live can impact their risk for common chronic conditions including high blood pressure and depression [News Release] October 14, 2020; New York, NY. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/tmsh-msr101420.php. Accessed October 15, 2020.