Diabetes Risk Higher in Less Walkable Neighbourhoods: Study

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 19, 2012

this blog entry has been updated

From the Yet More Evidence Telling Us What We Already Know dept:

A recent cohort study conducted in Toronto and published in the peer reviewed journal Diabetes Care concludes that a neighbourhood's walkability is a strong predictor of the incidence of diabetes, especially among recent immigrants.

The researchers looked at everyone in Toronto between 30 and 65 and controlled for age, income and immigrant status. Among all groups - low-income recent immigrants, low-income long-term residents, high-income recent immigrants and high-income long-term residents - the rate of incidence of diabetes was lower in more walkable neighbourhoods.

However, the biggest increase in risk of incidence was among low-income recent immigrants, who had a 50% higher risk of getting diabetes in the least walkable neighbourhoods compared to the most walkable.

Comparing across cohorts, low-income immigrants living in the least walkable neighbourhoods have three times the risk of getting diabetes as high-income immigrants living in the most walkable neighbourhoods.

(h/t to the always-informative Atlantic Cities for highlighting the study)

Update: as recommended by John Neary in this comment, I have edited this blog entry to make more explicit the fact that the study recorded the incidence of diabetes, i.e. the rate of new cases of diabetes among the cohorts, and not the pre-existing prevalence of diabetes.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted September 19, 2012 at 21:03:39

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted September 21, 2012 at 21:30:15 in reply to Comment 81061

No, because this study looked at the risk of developing diabetes and not at the risk of having diabetes at baseline.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted September 19, 2012 at 21:36:44

Ryan, I'd advise that you edit this post to emphasize that this study looked at the incidence of diabetes (i.e. the frequency with which people who did not initially have diabetes developed the condition) rather than the prevalence of diabetes* (i.e. the proportion of people who had diabetes on study entry).

You use the word "incidence" once in the second paragraph, but then use phrases such as "the rate of diabetes", "50% higher risk of diabetes", "three times the risk of diabetes" which could easily be taken as referring to prevalence. I'd insert the word "incident" before "diabetes" in each of those phrases, and also define the term "incidence" for readers who aren't familiar with it.

(Similar to the previous poster, I assumed that the results of this study were hopelessly confounded by the fact that socioeconomic status is a predictor of both neighbourhood of residence and risk of diabetes. That the study examined incident rather than prevalent diabetes mitigates the importance of that confounding somewhat.)

Really interesting article -- thanks for posting.

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By victorlopes (registered) | Posted September 20, 2012 at 01:03:21

Well, Yeah Recently I've also read an article on this in the Indian Express. That People living in less walkable neighbourhoods have more risk of developing diabetes.

Comment edited by victorlopes on 2012-09-20 01:04:02

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:02:58

Wouldn't a better assumption be that since the homes in less walkable areas are cheaper than the homes in more walkable areas the whole thing can be attributed to income rather then walkability of the neighbourhood?

And yes you are right this is something that we already knew.

It's all about cause and effect.

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