Relation between neighborhood environments and obesity in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis

Mahasin S. Mujahid, Ana V Diez Roux, Mingwu Shen, Deepthiman Gowda, Brisa Sánchez, Steven Shea, David R. Jacobs, Sharon A. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Scopus citations


This study investigated associations between neighborhood physical and social environments and body mass index in 2,865 participants of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) aged 45-84 years and residing in Maryland, New York, and North Carolina. Neighborhood (census tract) environments were measured in non-MESA participants residing in MESA neighborhoods (2000-2002). The neighborhood physical environment score combined measures of a better walking environment and greater availability of healthy foods. The neighborhood social environment score combined measures of greater aesthetic quality, safety, and social cohesion and less violent crime. Marginal maximum likelihood was used to estimate associations between neighborhood environments and body mass index (kg/m2) before and after adjustment for individual-level covariates. MESA residents of neighborhoods with better physical environments had lower body mass index (mean difference per standard deviation higher neighborhood measure = -2.38 (95% confidence interval (CI): -3.38, -1.38) kg/m2 for women and -1.20 (95% CI: -1.84, -0.57) kg/m2 for men), independent of age, race/ethnicity, education, and income. Attenuation of these associations after adjustment for diet and physical activity suggests a mediating role of these behaviors. In men, the mean body mass index was higher in areas with better social environments (mean difference = 0.52 (95% CI: 0.07, 0.97) kg/m2). Improvement in the neighborhood physical environment should be considered for its contribution to reducing obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1357
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Body mass index
  • Obesity
  • Residence characteristics
  • Social environment


Dive into the research topics of 'Relation between neighborhood environments and obesity in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this