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The Impacts of Exposure to Environmental Risk on Physical and Mental Health in a Small Geographic Community in Houston, TX

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Previous research has shown that communities with low average socioeconomic status (SES) and majority minority populations are more likely to be exposed to industrial buildings, waste facilities, and poor infrastructure compared to white communities with higher average SES. While some studies have demonstrated linkages between exposures to specific environmental contaminates within these communities and negative health outcomes, little research has analyzed the effects of environmental contaminants on the mental and physical health of these populations. A cross-sectional survey collected data from residents of Manchester, a small neighborhood in Houston, TX, that is characterized by industrial sites, unimproved infrastructure, nuisance flooding, and poor air quality. Our study (N = 109) utilized the 12 item Short Form Health Survey version 2 (SF12v2) to assess the general mental and physical health of the community. The community as a whole had reduced physical health scores compared to U.S. national averages. The time residents had lived in the neighborhood was also correlated with a reported reduction in physical health scores (r2 = 0.136; p-value <0.001). The association between time lived in the neighborhood and poorer health scores remained after adjusting for age, race, and gender (coef = −0.27, p-value <0.001). Mental health scores were within national averages and time spent living in the neighborhood did not appear to negatively impact respondent’s mental health scores. These findings point to the need for more research to determine the potential for additive physical and mental health impacts in long-term residents in neighborhoods characterized by environmental justice issues.

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Correspondence to Garett Sansom.

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Sansom, G., Parras, J., Parras, A. et al. The Impacts of Exposure to Environmental Risk on Physical and Mental Health in a Small Geographic Community in Houston, TX. J Community Health 42, 813–818 (2017).

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