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How Your Home Address Affects Your Health

Studying people who moved shows scientists that your home address really does influence depression, blood pressure and diabetes.
How Your Home Address Affects Your Health
Photo of a wrapped house in brown recycled paper with label, cut out on a white background.

Where people live can have a profound impact on their risk of developing certain chronic health conditions. Scientists have been able to map the differences in health conditions across the United States (PLOS One, Dec. 14, 2016). They haven’t known, however, whether they can tease out the place versus the people who live there. How healthy is your home address?

What Is the Impact of Moving to a New Home Address?

Researchers reviewed the medical records of over 5 million adults in the Veterans Health Administration (VA) database. Specifically, they tracked health outcomes of people who moved from one zip code location to another (JAMA, Oct. 13, 2020). Reflecting the VA patient population, approximately 94% of these individuals were men and 73% were White. Approximately one million of them moved exactly once during the decade between 2008 and 2018. Most of the more than 4 million remaining did not change their home address during that time.

How Did Moving Affect Chronic Health Problems?

It the men moved to places where high blood pressure, high blood sugar or depression were more common, they too were more likely to suffer these chronic health conditions. People who moved farther (for example, from one state to another, not within the same county) were more likely to experience such a change. Unfortunately, the researchers still don’t know exactly how your home address may influence your health. However, these data suggest that something about a place makes a difference.

The investigators acknowledge that the people they studied are different from the general population. Often, the individuals who are most likely to move are younger and certainly not as likely to be men. As a result, their findings might not generalize to other groups of people. Still, anyone considering changing to a different home address might want to look at the general health in their proposed destination. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Rosenberg BL et al, "Quantifying geographic variation in health care outcomes in the United States before and after risk-adjustment." PLOS One, Dec. 14, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166762
  • Baum A et al, "Association of geographic differences in prevalence of uncontrolled chronic conditions with changes in individuals’ likelihood of uncontrolled chronic conditions." JAMA, Oct. 13, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.14381
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