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Journal Article


James P, Hart JE, Arcaya MC, Feskanich D, Laden F, Subramanian SV. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015; 12(10): 12489-12504.


Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


(Copyright © 2015, MDPI: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute)






Residential self-selection bias is a concern in studies of neighborhoods and health. This bias results from health behaviors predicting neighborhood choice. To quantify this bias, we examined associations between pre-move health factors (body mass index, walking, and total physical activity) and post-move neighborhood factors (County Sprawl Index, Census tract socioeconomic status (SES)) in the Nurses' Health Study (n = 14,159 moves from 1986-2008). Individuals in the highest quartile of pre-move BMI (BMI > 28.4) compared to the lowest quartile (BMI < 22.5) moved to counties that averaged 2.57 points lower on the sprawl index (95% confidence interval -3.55, -1.59) indicating that individuals moved to less dense counties; however, no associations were observed for pre-move walking nor total physical activity. Individuals with higher pre-move BMI tended to move to Census tracts with lower median income and home values and higher levels of poverty. Analyses examining the change in neighborhood environments after a move demonstrated that healthy pre-move behaviors were associated with moves to worse socioeconomic environments. This type of self-selection would bias results downward, underestimating the true relationship between SES and physical activity. Generally, the magnitudes of associations between pre-move health factors and neighborhood measures were small and indicated that residential self-selection was not a major source of bias in analyses in this population.

Language: en


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