How does your postal code influence your health? UdeM study aims to find out

Université de Montréal researchers are looking for participants in a new study that will look at the health impacts of everything from living in a food desert to having a long commute to work.

Study aims to find better ways of designing healthier neighbourhoods

The hypothesis is simple: where we live has an influence on our health — but the factors are numerous, lead researcher says. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Our neighbourhoods could have more of an impact on our physical well-being than we might think.

That's why Université de Montréal researchers are looking for participants in a new study that will look at the health impacts of everything from living in a food desert to having a long commute to work.

The study, called Interact, aims to find better ways of designing healthier neighbourhoods.

"We're really trying to appeal to people's willingness to do citizen science in a certain way and give some of their time," Yan Kestens, the study's leader, said on Daybreak.

The hypothesis is simple: where we live has an influence on our health — but the factors are numerous, Kestens says.

For example, living in a lower-income neighbourhood might mean an individual has lower health prospects for several reasons.

"Perhaps for some individual reasons, like level of education, which might influence your health outcomes," Kestens said. "But there are also reasons linked to your environment, where you live."

Neighbourhood conditions that influence your access to resources, like amount of green space or access to public meeting places, also influence your health, Kestens says.

Public transport and physical activity

The study focuses largely on physical activity, which Kestens says increases when public transit is more available. 

"Some studies have shown that urban sprawl is associated with obesity, and this is simply linked to the fact that people are sitting longer in their cars, doing longer commutes in their cars," Kesterns said.

Up to one third of our total physical activity comes from transportation when using either public transport or other active modes of transportation, like walking or cycling, Kestens says.

Interact is part of a joint study that looks at public transit networks in Vancouver, Victoria and Saskatoon.

Although each city has its particularities, Kestens says there are also commonalities in terms of how people aspire to live.

"Across the cities, people want to live in healthier neighbourhoods," he said. "Some of the solutions you can apply to other cities could also work in Montreal."

How to sign up

The researchers are looking for people 18 years and older who live in the Montreal area — including Laval, Longueuil, Saint-Lambert and Brossard — to participate in the study.

You can sign up to complete the survey here.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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