Study reveals the impact of built environment on adolescents’ BMI and eating behaviors

New analysis reveals that the designed setting, not social and financial environments, is a sturdy predictor of adolescents’ overall body mass index (BMI), chubby and obesity position, and ingesting behaviors, in accordance to a new study in Obesity, The Being overweight Society’s (TOS) flagship journal. This study provides the to start with quasi-experimental empirical proof of these environments on adolescents’ BMI, overweight, being overweight and relevant behaviors.


Our research implies that tactics for addressing childhood and adolescent weight problems ought to focus on strengthening constructed environments additional comprehensively.”


Maria J. Prados, Ph.D., Center for Economic and Social Study, University of Southern California Dornsife Higher education of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles, Calif.


Prados is the corresponding writer of the analyze.

Childhood and adolescent obesity have been identified as 1 of the most major wellbeing issues of the 21st century. “Adolescents characterize an crucial goal for prospective health plan interventions because they are at an age when their health behaviors, preferences and interactions with the environments are evolving,” Prados explained.

Literature critiques examining the impact of environments on childhood weight problems advise that the the greater part of existing proof has occur from observational scientific studies. These scientific studies often have identified somewhat varying results with respect to whether or not environments make any difference and for whom.

Reports that are suited to handle causality, this kind of as the Shifting to Prospect housing experiment and other quasi- and organic experiment reports, have not instantly or at the same time assessed the impartial roles of created, social and financial environments on obesity. Alternatively, they have possibly concentrated only on a narrow set of environmental traits this kind of as supermarkets, places to eat and friends or examined the outcomes of place as a whole. Furthermore, these effectively-made research have mostly been between adults.

These new findings, explained Prados, “insert a new dimension to the growing evidence that put matters by implementing a much more extensive approach to characterizing environments.”

Preceding investigation by the study’s authors utilized a pure experiment, the plausibly exogenous assignment of armed service support associates and adolescents in their households to unique sites to assess put outcomes on being overweight and being overweight-relevant behaviors. This perform assessed the purpose of a slim set of environmental things these kinds of as community actual physical activity opportunities or food stuff ecosystem or assessed the put together impact of the setting as a full showing that adolescents whose army mom and dad ended up assigned to counties with increased being overweight prices were extra likely to present with obese or weight problems. The current analyze builds on the prior operate by making use of the same normal experiment to concurrently evaluate the job of created, social and economic environments in adolescent weight problems and related behaviors. This experiment depends on the routine assignment of navy staff (and their family members) to different installations centered on the needs of the Army.

Researchers analyzed knowledge from the Army Adolescents Environments, Work out and Nutrition Study, a co-hort analyze of adolescents in armed forces people. Data was collected on adolescents’ BMI, overweight, obesity and self-documented eating plan and work out. Forty-eight p.c of the analysis sample (1,111 adolescents) was feminine, with an age vary of 12 to 14 a long time previous and 41% of members staying non-Hispanic White, 22% non-Hispanic Black, 23% Hispanic and 14% other. A few indices for the designed, social and economic environments characterized 35 county-stage environments dependent on 19 indicators. Major heterogeneity existed in the two measures of publicity to the civilian ecosystem: 61% of families experienced been assigned to the armed service installations for additional than 2 a long time and 54% had been not dwelling on army bases but in the surrounding group.

Success disclosed that publicity to larger (i.e., additional healthful) designed surroundings index scores for much more than 2 years were being connected with reduce likelihood of being overweight, and lower over weight or obesity position, but not with BMI z scores. All else equal, after additional than 2 decades of exposure, the probability of adolescent being overweight is approximated to be 3.6 proportion details higher in a county with a constructed natural environment index at the 25th percentile relative to a county at the 75th percentile of the designed natural environment distribution. Outcomes were similar for adolescents not dwelling on army bases. A lot more useful built environments ended up also affiliated with decrease use of unhealthy foods but not with bodily exercise. Social and economic environments were being not affiliated with any results.

“An appealing finding is that it was specially the constructed environment that mattered – options like how near the adolescent lives to speedy-meals dining places versus park and recreation services. Considerably less essential have been the social and financial environmental aspects like crime, social aid, home earnings, family education – and whilst quite important for adolescents’ wellness, these factors were being not instantly tied to obesity possibility or ingesting behaviors in this analyze, and these components are also harder to modify. The designed setting, on the other hand, can be enhanced with coverage adjust and economic investment like incentivizing grocery outlets to occur to foodstuff deserts, restricting quick-foodstuff outlets close to college zones, enacting entire street policies to guarantee pedestrians and cyclists are safe on the road, supporting municipalities to develop far more harmless playgrounds and parks, and enacting joint use agreements so people can obtain general public amenities like university fields and courts on the weekend,” mentioned Amanda Staiano, PhD, associate professor, Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Study Center. Staiano was not linked with the investigate.

Staiano additional that “while the new release of the American Academy of Pediatric’s medical observe guidelines reminds us that evidence-based treatment method is a crucial software in our fight against childhood weight problems, putting concerted effort and hard work into improving upon the developed natural environment is also essential both of those for being overweight prevention and to support all those families who have obesity and are trying to build much healthier routines. Improving the built ecosystem will require input and action from a lot of stakeholders – city planners, elected officials, analysis researchers, anxious community members – to produce healthier areas for our young children to engage in, master and are living.”

The study’s authors increase that further more analysis is needed to comprehend irrespective of whether social and financial environments may well be a lot more consequential amid adolescents and older people in civilian populations.

Other authors of the review involve Ashlesha Datar, Heart for Financial and Social Investigate, University of Southern California Dornsife University of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles, Calif., and Nancy Nicosia, Rand Corp., Boston, Mass.


Journal reference:

Prados, M.J., et al. (2023) Impression of designed, social, and economic environments on adolescent being overweight and relevant well being behaviors. Pediatrics.