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Suburbs May Be Hazardous to Your Health

People Who Live in Sprawling Suburbs May Face Greater Health Risks

Suburban Sprawl: Public Health Enemy No. 1? continued...

The study showed that people living in sprawling areas reported a greater number of chronic medical conditions than those living in more compact areas. On average, people reported having 1.26 medical conditions, but those living in the sprawling areas reported up to 1.77 medical conditions (West Palm Beach, Fla.).

Researchers say the link between suburban life and higher risk of physical health problems remained significant even after they controlled for factors like age, economic status, race, and local environment that might help explain the disparity.

They say suburban sprawl seems to have a disproportionate impact on the physical health of the elderly and possibly the poor. These groups may have less access to motor transportation and have more difficulty in walking the greater distances to destinations such as markets or parks.

"To improve our health the study suggests that we should build cities where people feel comfortable walking and are not so dependent on cars," says RAND researcher Deborah Cohen, MD, in the release. "This study gives the public a way to personalize the issue of sprawl in a way that hasn't happened before."

Regions with the worst suburban sprawl included:

  • Riverside-San Bernardino region of California
  • Atlanta
  • Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.
  • West Palm Beach, Fla.
  • Bridgeport-Danbury-Stamford, Conn.
  • Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Rochester, N.Y.
  • Detroit

Regions with the least amount of suburban sprawl included:

  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • Boston
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Miami
  • Denver
  • Chicago
  • Milwaukee

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