OBJECTIVE: This study was designed to determine whether living in a neighborhood in which poverty levels increase across adolescence is associated with heightened levels of allostatic load (AL), a biological composite reflecting cardiometabolic risk. The researchers also sought to determine whether receipt of emotional support could ameliorate the effects of increases in neighborhood poverty on AL.
METHODS: Neighborhood concentrations of poverty were obtained from the Census Bureau for 420 African American youth living in rural Georgia when they were 11 and 19 years of age. AL was measured at age 19 by using established protocols for children and adolescents. When youth were 18, caregivers reported parental emotional support and youth assessed receipt of peer and mentor emotional support. Covariates included family poverty status at ages 11 and 19, family financial stress, parental employment status, youth stress, and youths’ unhealthful behaviors.
RESULTS: Youth who lived in neighborhoods in which poverty levels increased from ages 11 to 19 evinced the highest levels of AL even after accounting for the individual-level covariates. The association of increasing neighborhood poverty across adolescence with AL was not significant for youth who received high emotional support.
CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to show an association between AL and residence in a neighborhood that increases in poverty. It also highlights the benefits of supportive relationships in ameliorating this association.
- Accepted August 20, 2014.
- Copyright © 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics