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Research Findings: Where people live

It is widely reported that differences exist in people’s health in different geographical areas.  It is often questioned whether these differences are due to the characteristics of the people who live there or is it some aspect of the social and physical environment of that area (for example, housing, transport, shopping and recreational facilities) that might affect their health.  We explore which aspects of the area in which people live may play an important role in generating social differences in people’s health.

Our findings in this area can be grouped into six sub-themes:


Impact of where people live on their health

Are changes in food retailing damaging our health?
Lower availability, higher prices and poorer quality of foods appear to disadvantage those living in poorer areas than in more affluent areas.

“Location, Location, Location”
Current health promotion messages suggest people should exercise more and eat healthier so we looked at how easy it was for residents in our study areas to take up these messages.  We found that the poor physical environments and anti-social conditions in deprived areas limit the opportunities for people to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Poor housing and neighbourhood conditions contribute to poor health
Poor housing (living conditions and type of housing) and poor neighbourhood conditions contributed to poor health independent of income level.

Area, Class and Health:  Should we be focusing on places or people?
Even when income, family size and home-ownership are taking into account, it seems likely that living in the city’s North West could better for your health than living in the city’s South West.  We found that those living in the North West have better availability and access to affordable healthy food, more recreational facilities within easy reach, better public transport links, more primary healthcare services and less threatening local surroundings than those in the South West.

Summary papers...

Effect of housing conditions on health

Indoor heating, house conditions, and health
Living in a home that was considered cold in winter most of the time was associated with limiting long-term illness and having only ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ self-rated health.  Although inadequate housing is not necessarily the cause of the ill health it is likely to exacerbate existing conditions.

Summary papers...

Impact of where you live on what you eat

Changes in diet and food access from 1992-2002
We found that people on low income were more likely to give priority to price when shopping for food.  Overall we found most grocery shopping is done in supermarkets however, people living on low income and those in more disadvantaged areas were more likely to shop for basic foodstuffs such as bread, milk, fruit and vegetables in local shops where prices tend to be higher and the quality and availability of fresh fruit and vegetables is low.

Does where you live increase your risk of obesity?
We found that the area where a person lives can determine their body size and shape. Those living in the most deprived communities were significantly shorter, had bigger waistlines and were heaviest, than those in more affluent areas.

Does where you live predict healthy habits?
Patterns of diet, smoking and physical exercise were worse in more disadvantaged neighbourhoods (even after taking into account differences between the neighbourhoods in age, sex, and household income), than more affluent areas.

Barriers to healthier food options in poorer areas
Providing areas with better availability and access to affordable healthy food, more local recreational facilities, better public transport links, more accessible primary healthcare services and less threatening local surroundings may help promote physical and mental health of its residents.

Summary papers...

Effect of belonging to social groups on health

Does belonging to social organisations protect people from the risk of heart disease?
There is evidence that social contact is good for our health but little is known about whether being part of any particular social group or association is linked to specific risk factors for heart disease.  In a study, examining the association between social participation in groups and health, no consistent patterning was found between social participation and risk of cardiovascular disease. The most consistent findings related to psychological distress where, in general, participation in groups was related to less distress.

Social inclusion could improve the health of those living in deprived communities
Lack of social inclusion may be more common in deprived areas in Scotland and may produce poorer mental health.  Groups most likely to report greater levels of neighbourhood cohesion were identified as older, in owner-occupied homes, not working outside the home and those in more affluent neighbourhoods.

Summary papers...

Perceptions of neighbourhood and health

Perceptions of where you live and health
Place of residence has long been associated with health outcomes. The relationship between respondent’s areas of residence and their perceptions of their environment were explored to help explain this relationship.

In general, respondents in the most socially advantaged neighbourhoods had the most positive perceptions of where they lived and reported better health than those in the least disadvantaged areas, although more complex explanation between area characteristics and perceptions are suggested by the results. For example, those in social housing reported more problems irrespective of location and a sense of neighbouring was only weakly associated with incidence of neighbourhood problems, and perceived neighbourhood cohesion was highest among those who viewed their standard of living as ‘about the same’ as others in the area. These findings improve our understanding of the role of the neighbourhood in people’s social lives and perceptions of self.  

Gender perceptions of neighbourhoods and health
Women had significantly more negative assessments than men of problems in their local area. The most negative perceptions came from women with children who were not employed outside the home. Poor opinions of the neighbourhood were associated with poor mental health among men, and physical symptoms among women.

Summary papers...

Descriptions of the Twenty-07 area

Localities 10 years on
Comparing data collected in 1987 to 1997, it appears that the North West Locality of Glasgow continues to have better service provision than the South West, as in 1987, but that for some services the gap between the localities has been slightly reduced (e.g. the number of shops per thousand residents). This reduction seemed to be due to improvements in the South West Locality rather than declining service provision in the North West.

Provision of primary care services in a working class and middle class locality in Glasgow
People’s perceived accessibility of, and satisfaction with, GP practices was equally high in both South West and North West localities of Glasgow despite greater need for services and higher used of services among people in the relatively deprived South West area.

Summary papers...