Higher Neighborhood Drivability Is Associated With a Higher Diabetes Risk in Younger Adults: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Toronto, Canada

Nicolette R den Braver, Joline W J Beulens, C Fangyun Wu, Ghazal S Fazli, Peter Gozdyra, Nicholas A Howell, Jeroen Lakerveld, John S Moin, Femke Rutters, Johannes Brug, Rahim Moineddin, Gillian L Booth

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OBJECTIVE: Car dependency contributes to physical inactivity and, consequently, may increase the likelihood of diabetes. We investigated whether neighborhoods that are highly conducive to driving confer a greater risk of developing diabetes and, if so, whether this differs by age. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We used administrative health care data to identify all working-age Canadian adults (20-64 years) who were living in Toronto on 1 April 2011 without diabetes (type 1 or 2). Neighborhood drivability scores were assigned using a novel, validated index that predicts driving patterns based on built environment features divided into quintiles. Cox regression was used to examine the association between neighborhood drivability and 7-year risk of diabetes onset, overall and by age-group, adjusting for baseline characteristics and comorbidities. RESULTS: Overall, there were 1,473,994 adults in the cohort (mean age 40.9 ± 12.2 years), among whom 77,835 developed diabetes during follow-up. Those living in the most drivable neighborhoods (quintile 5) had a 41% higher risk of developing diabetes compared with those in the least drivable neighborhoods (adjusted hazard ratio 1.41, 95% CI 1.37-1.44), with the strongest associations in younger adults aged 20-34 years (1.57, 95% CI 1.47-1.68, P < 0.001 for interaction). The same comparison in older adults (55-64 years) yielded smaller differences (1.31, 95% CI 1.26-1.36). Associations appeared to be strongest in middle-income neighborhoods for younger residents (middle income 1.96, 95% CI 1.64-2.33) and older residents (1.46, 95% CI 1.32-1.62). CONCLUSIONS: High neighborhood drivability is a risk factor for diabetes, particularly in younger adults. This finding has important implications for future urban design policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1177-1184
Number of pages8
JournalDiabetes Care
Issue number6
Early online date23 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

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