Dornsife School of Public Health, Dean Ana Diez-Roux, and Dr. Leslie McClure, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, contributed to a study recently published in Neurology that examined the relationship between socioeconomic status of neighborhoods and the risk of having a stroke.
The team, led by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Virginia Howard, PhD, found that the lower a neighborhood’s socioeconomic status, the higher the stroke risk for individuals living there. That risk affected both black and white participants (the two racial categories included in the study).
Almost 25,000 people aged 45 or older were a part of the study. None of the participants had a stroke before enrolling in a national population cohort between 2003 and 2007. After enrollment, they were subsequently monitored for incidence of stroke for seven-and-a-half years. Neighborhood socioeconomic status for each participant was ascertained and categorized into four levels. As the research team examined the data, they determined that stroke risk increased as socioeconomic status declined.
The risk of stroke for people living in neighborhoods in the lowest (or poorest) level was 13 percent higher than the second level. For participants those living in the second level, stroke risk was 8 percent higher than the third level.
The trend of stroke risk tied to neighborhood socioeconomic status was present even when taking individual risk factors were taken into account.
“Studies like this are the first step in identifying a risk factor,” Dr. McClure said. “We need to identify what specifically can be changed that might reduce this relationship between stroke risk and the neighborhood a person lives in.”
McClure hopes further research will identify what specific risk factors are associated with stroke “and then discover what interventions may help eliminate those risks.”
“The ultimate goal is to make changes in neighborhoods that lead to better health outcomes all around,” she said.
Those interested in reading the full study, “Neighborhood socioeconomic index and stroke incidence in a national cohort of blacks and whites,” can access it here.