Study: Patient location affects risk of chronic conditions

October 14, 2020

Researchers at Mount Sinai have found a connection between where a person lives and their likelihood of developing chronic conditions.

Where a patient lives may be connected to why they are suffering from a chronic condition, according to a new study.

According to a news release, researchers at Mount Sinai, New York, looked at the medical records of 5 million people treated at Veterans Health Administration facilities between 2008 and 2018 in the study. These records include those of 1 million patients who moved to new neighborhoods, counties, and states. They found that a person’s risk of an uncontrolled chronic condition increased after moving to a place where that condition is more common.

A patient’s place mattered the most to their risk of high blood pressure and depression, and to a lesser extent uncontrolled diabetes and obesity, the release says.

One of the authors of the study, Aaron Baum, PhD, assistant professor of health system design and global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said that the study confirms that where a patient lives affects their health.

“By evaluating medical records of millions of adults before and after they moved to a new neighborhood, we showed that where a person moved to affected their risk of having a poorly controlled chronic condition,” he says in the release. “In addition to individual behaviors like healthy eating and exercise, our findings suggest that local and regional factors substantially influence the health of the 60% of American adults who have a chronic condition.”

In describing the findings, the release gave the example of a patient’s move from an area in the 10th-ranked zip code to a 90th-ranked zip code for a particular chronic condition was associated with a significantly increased prevalence of uncontrolled blood pressure of seven percentage points, uncontrolled diabetes of one percentage point, and obesity of two percentage points.

The full study can be found here.​

This comes as more and more healthcare entities recognize that addressing social determinants of health first can help those patients suffering from chronic condition.