Neighborhood Social Environment and Cardiovascular Disease Risk

  • Kosuke TamuraEmail author
  • Steven D. Langerman
  • Joniqua N. Ceasar
  • Marcus R. Andrews
  • Malhaar Agrawal
  • Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley
Obesity and Diet (G. Rao, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Obesity and Diet


Purpose of Review

Limited physical activity (PA) and obesity are two primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Within a socio-ecological framework, neighborhood social environment may play a key role in influencing PA and obesity. However, the mechanisms underlying this relationship remain ambiguous. Our goals in this review are as follows: (1) to summarize findings from the recent studies on neighborhood social environment in relation to PA and obesity as CVD risk factors, and (2) to briefly describe several innovative approaches to assessing neighborhood social environment.

Recent Findings

Almost all recent studies assessed neighborhood social environment around residential areas. There were consistent associations between neighborhood social environment and PA and obesity, with some exceptions (indicating null associations or paradoxical associations). However, a focus on residential social environment may limit results because these studies did not account for any exposures occurring away from individuals’ homes. Additionally, the majority of studies utilized a cross-sectional design, which limits our ability to make inferences regarding the causality of the association between neighborhood social environment and PA or obesity as CV risk factors.


The majority of the studies on neighborhood social environment characterized factors around residential areas and assessed participant activity via self-reported surveys. Future research should leverage tools to account for the spatial mismatch between environmental exposures and outcomes by using global positioning systems, ecological momentary assessments, virtual neighborhood audits, and simulation modeling. These approaches can overcome major limitations by tracking individuals’ daily activity and real-time perceptions of neighborhood social environments linked to CVD events.


Physical activity Obesity Social environment Health disparities Neighborhood socioeconomic position Cardiovascular disease risk 



Agent-based model


Body mass index


Cardiovascular disease


Ecological momentary assessment


Federal Bureau of Investigation


Geographic information systems


Global positioning system


Leisure-time physical activity


Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity


Neighborhood deprivation index


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey


Physical activity


Socioeconomic position


Socioeconomic status



The views of the present review study are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Funding Information

Funding for the Social Determinants of Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk Laboratory is provided through the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) of the NHLBI of the NIH, and through the Intramural Research Program of the NIMHD of the NIH. This research was made possible through the NIH Medical Research Scholars Program, a public-private partnership supported jointly by the NIH and generous contributions to the Foundation for the NIH from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Genentech, the American Association for Dental Research, the Colgate-Palmolive Company, Elsevier, alumni of student research programs, and other individual supporters via contributions to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

All the authors (Tamura, Langerman, Ceasar, Andrews, Agrawal, Powell-Wiley) declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kosuke Tamura
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven D. Langerman
    • 1
  • Joniqua N. Ceasar
    • 1
  • Marcus R. Andrews
    • 1
  • Malhaar Agrawal
    • 1
  • Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Social Determinants of Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk Laboratory, Cardiovascular Branch, Division of Intramural Research, National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Minority Health and Health DisparitiesNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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