Lower diabetes risk leads to lower health insurance costs

New study examines the connection between neighborhoods and diabetes risk

The risk of contracting type 2 diabetes, a disease that can drive up health insurance costs, is dependent on individuals' neighborhoods as well as their diets, a Drexel University study says.

The study recorded the health of 2,285 adults from urban neighborhoods in Baltimore, North Carolina, and New York City. Different adults were asked to rate those neighborhoods on the availability of both physical exercise and healthy food.

Researchers found a "significant" correlation between neighborhoods' healthiness and the lower incidence of diabetes. "Better neighborhood resources ... were associated with a 38 percent lower incidence of type 2 diabetes," say the study's authors.

Participants in the study were asked if walking was "pleasant" or "easy" in their neighborhoods, among other questions.

The Drexel University researchers concluded that lifestyle choices are significant factors in the development of type 2 diabetes. They suggest that "safe sidewalks," parks, and "fresh-food farmers ' markets" can help promote the health of city dwellers.

Healthier living environments can lower health insurance expenses, and "may be one of the key steps in arresting and reversing [health] epidemics," researchers say.

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Posted: October 21, 2009

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