Dwelling in a violence-plagued neighborhood may amplify obesity by engendering psychological distress or by cultivating a sedentary, homebound lifestyle. This relationship is speculated to be especially relevant for black and Hispanic citizens because they are much more likely than whites to live in violence-beleaguered neighborhoods. Results from two multilevel analyses of 12,645 residents living in 34 New York City neighborhoods show that, while the violent crime rate does not have a direct effect on obesity, it does condition the relationships between race, ethnicity, and obesity. As the violent crime rate rises in a neighborhood, the probability of both a black and Hispanic resident being obese increases, controlling for both individual and neighborhood factors. The BMI of black and Hispanic residents is also higher in neighborhoods beset by violence. These findings suggest that violent crime may be a salient but unappreciated factor in explaining both racial and ethnic differences in obesity.
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