If you feel safe in the area where you live, you will lose more weight. This is the conclusion of a Dutch study, which will be presented at the thirtieth European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Dublin.
A lower socio-economic status, which is partly determined by the environment in which someone lives, is a known risk factor for obesity. For obese patients, diet and exercise programs help to change their lifestyle. Until now, little was known about the influence of the environment on lifestyle changes. Therefore, this study investigated the relationship between neighborhood characteristics and weight change.
Security and social cohesion
122 obese people adhered to diet and exercise advice for a year and a half. Their weight and girth were measured at the start of the study, after 10 weeks and after a year and a half. Before the start of the study, the participants rated their neighborhood on five factors: safety, attractiveness, social cohesion, access to shops and access to sports facilities.
People who indicated that they felt safe in their neighborhood lost significantly faster and more weight. This was also the case for people who felt greater social cohesion. Both results were independent of sex, age and education level.
Less exercise and unhealthy eating
Researcher Boëlle Brouwer of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam explains the impact of feeling unsafe. «People who feel unsafe are less likely to go outside and therefore exercise less. An unsafe feeling sometimes also causes stress, which causes people to adopt unhealthy eating habits and thus recover.” Social cohesion, on the other hand, motivates people. «If you feel supported by your environment, you can maintain healthy behavior more easily.»
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