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PLoS One. 2009 Jun 30;4(6):e6091. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006091.

Perception of neighborhood safety and reported childhood lifetime asthma in the United States (U.S.): a study based on a national survey.

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Department of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, MA, USA.



Recent studies have emphasized the role of psychosocial stressors as a determinant of asthma, and neighborhoods can be a potential source of such stressors. We investigated the association between parental perception of neighborhood safety and reported lifetime asthma among children.


Data for the study came from the 2003-04 National Survey of Children Health (NSCH); a nationally representative cross-sectional sample of children aged 0-17 years. Demographic, socioeconomic and behavioral covariates were included in the study. Models were estimated after taking account of weighting and complex survey design. Parental report of whether the child has ever been diagnosed with asthma by a physician was used to define the outcome. Parental report of perception of neighborhood safety was the main exposure. In unadjusted models, the odds ratio (OR) for reporting asthma associated with living in neighborhoods that were perceived to be sometimes or never safe was 1.36 (95% confidence intervals [CI] 1.21, 1.53) compared to living in neighborhoods that were perceived to be always safe. Adjusting for covariates including exposure to second hand tobacco smoke, mother's self-rated health, child's physical activity and television viewing attenuated this association (OR 1.25, 95% CI 1.08, 1.43). In adjusted models, the increased odds ratio for reporting asthma was also higher among those who perceived neighborhoods as being usually safe (OR 1.15 95% CI 1.06, 1.26), as compared to always safe, suggestive of a dose-response relationship, with the differentials for usually safe and never safe being statistically significant (p = 0.009).


Psychosocial stressors may be important risk factors that may impact the pathogenesis of asthma and/or contribute to asthma morbidity by triggering exacerbations through neuroimmunologic mechanisms, as well as social mechanisms.

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