Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

High-Traffic Areas May Lead to Kids’ Obesity

Children Living in Traffic-Congested Areas May Be Less Likely to Walk, Bike, or Play Outside Regularly, Study Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 5, 2010 -- Traffic congestion may increase the risk of extra weight gain and obesity among children living in heavy traffic areas, new research indicates.

“When it’s not safe to play outside, kids are more likely to stay inside and play computer games or watch television,” lead author Michael Jerrett, PhD, of the University of California-Berkeley, says in a news release. “These sedentary habits can put them at greater risk for obesity.”

Jerrett and his team of researchers studied nearly 3,000 children aged 9-10 living in and around Los Angeles for about eight years, until they reached age 18. Researchers collected data annually on the children’s height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI). As expected, BMI increased in the children as they got older, but with children living within 150 meters of traffic, there was a significant increase in BMIs for girls and boys. “This translates into about a 5% increase in attained BMI at age 18,” the authors write. “Although this effect may appear small, the ubiquity of exposure to traffic implies small changes in the BMI in response to traffic may be associated with impacts on overweight and obese status in the population.”

The team speculates that children living in traffic-clogged areas may not walk, bike, or play outside regularly because nearby traffic makes them feel that being outside is risky. They also suggest a second reason for the association between traffic density and increased BMI may be related to air pollution. Because air pollution can negatively impact asthma and lung function, this may play a role in limiting a child’s ability to be physically active.

Jerrett and his colleagues, however, suggest that innovative approaches by city planners could reduce the risk of traffic-related weight gain.

They say measures can and should be taken to increase the “walkability” of neighborhoods, which perhaps would provide some protection against obesity.

The authors conclude that their study “yields the first evidence of significant effects from traffic density on BMI (body mass index) levels at age 18 in a large cohort of children. Traffic is a pervasive exposure in most cities, and our results identify traffic as a major risk factor for the development of obesity in children.”

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration