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Health Benefits Seen for Moving to Less Poor Neighborhood

Last Updated: September 20, 2012.

Moving from a high-poverty to a lower-poverty neighborhood correlates with long-term improvements in physical and mental health and subjective well-being, according to a study published in the Sept. 21 issue of Science.

THURSDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Moving from a high-poverty to a lower-poverty neighborhood correlates with long-term improvements in physical and mental health and subjective well-being, according to a study published in the Sept. 21 issue of Science.

Jens Ludwig, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago, and colleagues used data from Moving to Opportunity, a randomized housing mobility experiment, to examine the effects on well-being of residents moving out of neighborhoods of extreme poverty to less distressed areas.

The researchers found that moving from a high-poverty to lower-poverty neighborhood correlated with long-term (10- to 15-year) improvements in adult physical and mental health and subjective well-being, although the transition did not affect economic self-sufficiency. A one-standard deviation reduction in neighborhood poverty (13 percent) led to an increase in subjective well-being. This increase was equivalent to the difference in subjective well-being between individuals whose annual incomes differ by $13,000. Neighborhood economic segregation had more of an impact on subjective well-being than racial segregation.

"It is also important for both science and policy to understand why changes in neighborhood environments affect the well-being of low-income adults," the authors write. "The rise in U.S. residential income segregation since 1970 raises the possibility that the problem of harmful neighborhood effects on people's well-being may be getting worse rather than better over time."

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