Public Release:  Unsafe neighborhoods disable the elderly

BioMed Central

Elderly people who live below the poverty line and perceive their neighborhoods to be dangerous are more likely to have a mobility disability. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Public Health suggest that even perceiving one's neighborhood as unsafe can 'get into the body' and, ultimately, prove hazardous for elder health.

Cheryl Clark MD, ScD, from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, led a team of researchers who studied 1,884 people aged 65 and older. They measured both the individuals' perceptions of danger and the levels of violent crime actually reported in the areas where they lived. Although these measures correlated quite well, it was the elder's sense that the neighborhood was unsafe that was most strongly associated with the development of a disability. Clark said, "Our results suggest that dangerous neighborhoods get from the mind into the body and engender mobility disability through psychosocial or psychological processes".

The researchers suggest that lower income elderly who live in unsafe neighborhoods may have fewer resources to cope with neighborhood stresses. Moreover, neighborhoods with high crime rates or a reputation for being dangerous may have more difficulty attracting businesses that provide material resources and services. Of course, the correlation between perception and reality also suggests that elders may have been reacting to actual crime events in their neighborhoods.

Clark concludes, "Our findings underscore the importance of neighborhood safety to healthy aging. Specifically intervening to improve perceptions of neighborhood safety at retirement age may be an important step to reduce the risk of mobility disability among elders".

###

Notes to Editors

1. Perceived neighborhood safety and incident mobility disability among elders: the hazards of poverty
Cheryl R Clark, Ichiro Kawachi, Louise Ryan, Karen Ertel, Martha E Fay and Lisa F Berkman
BMC Public Health (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/2237402512187905_article.pdf?random=948792

After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpublichealth/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication

2. BMC Public Health is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in the epidemiology of disease and the understanding of all aspects of public health. The journal has a special focus on the social determinants of health, the environmental, behavioral, and occupational correlates of health and disease, and the impact of health policies, practices and interventions on the community. BMC Public Health (ISSN 1471-2458) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE, Current Contents, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar.

3. BioMed Central (www.biomedcentral.com) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.