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PLoS One. 2014 Aug 28;9(8):e105251. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105251. eCollection 2014.

Neighborhood safety and adipose tissue distribution in African Americans: the Jackson Heart Study.

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Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Department of Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi, United States of America.



Patterns of fat distribution are heavily influenced by psychological stress, sex, and among women, by menopause status. Emerging evidence suggests the lack of perceived neighborhood safety due to crime may contribute to psychological stress and obesity among exposed residents. Our objective is to determine if perceived neighborhood safety is associated with abdominal adiposity among African-American men and women, and among pre- and postmenopausal women in the Jackson Heart Study.


We examined associations between perceived neighborhood safety, fat distribution, and other individual-level covariates among Jackson Heart Study participants (N = 2,881). Abdominal adiposity was measured via computed tomography scans measuring the volumes of visceral, subcutaneous and total adipose tissue. We also measured body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. Multivariable regression models estimated associations between perceived neighborhood safety, adiposity, and covariates by sex and menopause status.


Adjusting for all covariates, women who strongly disagreed their neighborhood was safe from crime had a higher BMI compared to women who felt safe [Std B 0.083 95% CI (0.010, 0.156)]. Premenopausal women who felt most unsafe had higher BMI, waist circumference, and volumes of visceral and total adipose tissue than those who felt safe [Std B 0.160 (0.021, 0.299), Std B 0.142 (0.003, 0.280), Std B 0.150 (0.014, 0.285), Std B 0.154 (0.019, 0.290), respectively]. We did not identify associations between neighborhood safety and adiposity among men and postmenopausal women.


Our data suggest that abdominal adipose tissue distribution patterns are associated with perceived neighborhood safety in some groups, and that patterns may differ by sex and menopause status, with most associations observed among pre-menopausal women. Further research is needed to elucidate whether there are causal mechanisms underlying sex and menopause-status differences that may mediate associations between perceived safety and abdominal adiposity and potential protective factors that may modify this risk.

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