[Excerpt from The Hour, article by Amanda Cuda, Wednesday, May 23]
It’s common knowledge that where people lives affects their health. The idea that economic status, education level and access to health care all factor into people’s well-being is now accepted as more or less fact by most.
But a new study led by researchers from Yale University shows that other aspects of where people live could have a bearing on their health — things that might not have been previously associated with wellness, such as racial diversity.
“It seems that where you live matters,” said Dr. Brita Roy, Yale School of Medicine assistant professor of medicine and director of population health. “The goal of this study is determining what matters about where you live.” [....]
After looking at the data, the researchers identified 12 attributes that were strongly associated with well-being.
Some weren’t surprising. For instance, communities with a lower percentage of residents without a high school diploma and a higher percentage with a bachelor’s degree were both associated with a higher well-being.
Also, areas with better access to preventive health services, such as mammograms, had higher levels of well-being.
But some findings surprised researchers, such as the revelation that living in a community with a higher percentage of black residents was associated with greater well-being for all residents. [....]
Other factors associated with better health included a higher percentage of residents commuting by bicycle, using public transportation or working from home.
Roy said the report’s findings are “very relatable” to Connecticut, as “you have areas of higher and lower well-being across the state.”
She pointed to the nonprofit organization DataHaven, which collects and publishes vital statistics on health, wellness and demographic information about Connecticut and its communities. The organization also collects information on what percentage of residents consider themselves in “excellent or very good health.”
Fairfield County is the Connecticut county with the highest percentage of residents who considered themselves in excellent or very good health, at 67 percent, and Windham County had the lowest, at 58 percent, according to DataHaven’s web site.
The two communities seem to adhere to at least some of the Yale study’s findings about well-being. Fairfield County has both a lower percentage of residents without a high school diploma and higher rate of residents with a bachelor’s degree or more than Windham, and a higher percentage of black residents.
Roy said the study could provide a road map for policymakers and those in public health who wish to improve well-being in certain communities. However, she pointed out that, although the new study shows a link between certain factors and well-being, it doesn’t definitively show that things like increased diversity cause increased health. [....]