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Child Obes. 2018 Dec 1. doi: 10.1089/chi.2018.0165. [Epub ahead of print]

Exposure to Neighborhood Crime Is Associated with Lower Levels of Physical Activity and Higher Obesity Risk among Adolescent Girls, but Not Boys.

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Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University , New Orleans, LA.



Neighborhood safety has been linked to physical activity and obesity among adolescents, but few studies have used objective measures of crime or examined associations by gender. The goal of this study was to investigate if exposure to objectively measured neighborhood crime was associated with physical activity and overweight/obesity among adolescents, and if this association varied by gender.


Georeferenced data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2006 were linked to census tract-level data on crime reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, focusing on a sample of adolescents 12-20 years of age (n = 15,261). Our outcome variables were engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in the previous week and overweight/obesity status, defined as ≥85th percentile in the CDC's age- and sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts (based on measured weight and height). Our exposure variable was neighborhood-level violent crime risk, categorized as low vs. high. Gender-stratified three-level multilevel logistic regression models were fitted adjusting for individual, family, and neighborhood-level demographic and socioeconomic variables and adolescents' diet quality.


In fully adjusted models, girls exposed to high crime neighborhoods had 26% lower odds of engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity during the previous week [odds ratio (OR) = 0.74, confidence interval (95% CI) = 0.59-0.92] and 27% higher odds of being overweight/obese (OR = 1.27, 95% CI = 1.02-1.58), compared with adolescent girls exposed to low crime neighborhoods. No significant associations were found between exposure to neighborhood crime and physical activity and overweight/obesity among boys.


Prevention efforts focused on encouraging adolescents to be physically active need to account for gender-specific barriers to exercise outdoors.


adolescents; neighborhood crime; obesity; overweight; physical activity


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