Risk of obesity determined by neighbourhood, research says

A study out of St. Michael's Hospital focuses on how Toronto neighbourhoods are determinants of health.

A study out of St. Michael's Hospital focuses on how Toronto neighbourhoods are determinants of health

A St. Michael's Hospital study is meant to show how neighbourhood affects health (Handout)

If you live in neighbourhoods like the Bridle Path, Humber Valley, and Morningside, you have a 33 per cent greater risk of developing diabetes or being obese. In neighbourhoods like Roncesvalles, The Beach and Yonge-Eglinton that risk is mitigated.

That is according to new research out of St. Michael's Hospital which studied the effect of density and walkability on overall health. It showed that Toronto's downtown had higher density and more walkable destinations than communities outside of the city's core.

A study, conducted at the hospital's Centre for Research on Inner City Health, argues that neighbourhoods that are not conducive to walking and encourage dependency on cars increase the risk factors that can lead to obesity and diabetes. Dr. Gillian Booth, an endocrinologist and co-author of the study, examined "the impact residential density and the proximity of walkable destinations have on Torontonians’ health."

The study shows that people who live in walkable, high-density areas are two times more likely to walk, bicycle or take public transit. The opposite is true, says the research, in sparsely populated areas that are also far from destinations such as grocery stores, restaurants and shops where people are significantly more likely to drive or own a vehicle.

“We focused on density and destinations because they’re potentially modifiable,” said co-author Dr. Rick Glazier, research director in the Department of Family and Community Medicine of St. Michael's Hospital.  “Policy makers, planners and public health officials can use either of these measures to inform urban design and improve community health.”

This study focuses on how neighbourhoods are determinants of health.

In 2007, the same researchers said that diabetes rates were highest in areas that have lower income levels, higher unemployment rates and a higher proportion of visible minorities.

Data was culled from the Canada census, an urban transportation survey and a national health survey.

View a full map of the city and its density here.