RESEARCH - Fat of the Land? Home Values Linked to Obesity Print
Don’t just blame too many Big Macs and fries for making you overweight, say researchers at the UW Center for Obesity Research. Obesity is no longer measured just by what you eat, but by where you live.

Recently published in the online journal Social Science and Medicine, the center’s study found that the more affluent the neighborhood, the lower the obesity rate.

Illustration by Lydia Hess.
“Obesity is an economic issue,” says Adam Drewnowski, director of the UW center. “Knowing more about the geography of obesity will allow us to identify the most vulnerable neighborhoods.”

The UW study was the first to examine obesity by areas of economic value. It found an obesity rate as high as 30 percent in low-income areas and as low as 5 percent in more prosperous communities. Each additional $100,000 in the median price of homes equates to a 2 percent drop in the obesity rate.

While previous studies have found higher obesity rates in areas with high minority populations and in groups with lower education and income levels, these rates were much lower than when calculated based on geographic location. Area prosperity is also a good indicator of access to healthy foods and exercise opportunities, the study authors say.

Over 8,000 King County residents participated in the study, responding to a telephone survey taken by the local health departments and the federal Centers for Disease Control.

“Our research shows that geography, social class and economic standing all play huge roles in the obesity problem. Some of the most disadvantaged areas—those hit hardest by low income, low education and low property values—are also the ones most affected by the obesity epidemic,” says Drewnowski.