"Our study shows that it's not just who you are or what you do, but where you live that affects your well-being," says lead author Mario Schootman, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Health Behaviour Research at Washington University School of Medicine. "It also suggests that the effort to revitalize inner-city neighbourhoods can have the added benefit of improving the health of individuals living there."

The researchers rated neighbourhoods based on noise, air quality and the condition of houses, streets, yards and sidewalks. Such elements as broken windows, faulty siding, cracks and holes in sidewalks and high levels of industry or traffic noise lowered a neighbourhood’s rating.

The St. Louis neighbourhoods studied included a poor, inner-city area and a less-impoverished, suburban area with a variety of socio-economic conditions. The scientists assessed limitations in lower-body function in 563 African American men and women, age 50 to 64, living in the neighbourhoods.

After three years, the researchers retested the physical abilities of the same people. They found that those that had been living in neighbourhoods with four or five conditions rated fair or poor were three times more likely to have developed limitations in lower-body function than people in neighbourhoods that had one or no fair or poor ratings. Street and road quality and air quality had the greatest effect on disability development.

"Right now the reason for the association between poor neighbourhood conditions and physical disabilities is unclear," says senior author Douglas K. Miller, M.D., professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine. Having already eliminated some explanations, the research group is planning further studies to uncover what causes the association.

MEDICA.de; Source: Washington University School of Medicine