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Date:7/28/2008

SALT LAKE CITY The age of your neighborhood may influence your risk of obesity, according to a new study from the University of Utah.

The study, to be published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, linked the body mass index (BMI) of nearly a half million Salt Lake County residents to 2000 Census data. The study found that residents were at less risk of being obese or overweight if they lived in walkable neighborhoodsthose that are more densely populated, designed to be more friendly to pedestrians and have a range of destinations for pedestrians.

The study found that neighborhoods built before 1950 tended to offer greater overall walkability as they more often were designed with the pedestrian in mind, while newer neighborhoods often were designed to facilitate car travel.

Demographer Ken Smith, co-author of the study and professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, says that although individuals clearly make personal decisions that influence their weight, neighborhood characteristics also play a potentially important role in affecting residents' risk of obesity.

"It is difficult for individuals to change their behavior," he says, "but we can build environments that promote healthy behavior."

Using height and weight data collected by the Driver License Division of the Utah Department of Public Safety, Smith and colleagues calculated the BMI of 453,927 Salt Lake County residents age 25 to 64, linking it to census-block groups via geographical coordinates. To protect confidentiality, all personal information from the Driver License Division was removed before the data were provided to the researchers. The study was approved by the University of Utah Institutional Review Board.

The study found that a man of average height and weight (6 feet, 200 pounds) weighed 10 pounds less if he l
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Contact: Taunya Dressler
t.dressler@ucomm.utah.edu
801-587-9183
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert

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