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Neighbourhood and individual socioeconomic inequalities in smoking: the role of physical neighbourhood stressors
  1. Frank J van Lenthe,
  2. Johan P Mackenbach
  1. Department of Public Health, Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr F J van Lenthe
 Department of Public Health, Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, Netherlands; f.vanlenthe{at}


Objective: To explore the association between physical neighbourhood stressors and smoking, and the contribution of these stressors to neighbourhood and individual socioeconomic inequalities in smoking.

Methods: Data were analysed of participants of the baseline measurement of the Dutch GLOBE study (1991), aged 20 years and older, who lived in 79 neighbourhoods of the city of Eindhoven (n = 9062). The neighbourhood socioeconomic environment was assessed from aggregated self reported information of participants’ education and occupation level, and employment status. Neighbourhood stressors included were the physical quality (decay), required police attention, noise pollution from traffic, and population density in neighbourhoods. Current smokers were distinguished from previous and never smokers.

Results: Compared with those living in the most advantaged neighbourhoods, residents living in the socioeconomically most disadvantaged neighbourhoods were more likely to smoke (adjusted for age, sex, education, occupation, and employment status) (OR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.46). An increase in a summary neighbourhood stressor score was associated with smoking, independently of the neighbourhood socioeconomic environment (OR = 1.57, 95% CI 1.11 to 2.21, in the neighbourhoods with the highest stress score). Adjustment for the score substantially reduced the odds ratio for living in the socioeconomic most disadvantaged neighbourhoods (OR = 1.03, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.28, for those in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods). Neighbourhood stressors contributed 10% to the increased probability of smoking in the lowest educated persons.

Conclusions: Physical neighbourhood stressors are related to smoking and contribute substantially to neighbourhood inequalities in smoking over and above individual level characteristics.

  • smoking
  • socioeconomic inequality
  • stress
  • neighbourhood

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  • Funding: this study is supported by grants of the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport and the Health Research and Development Council (ZON). FvL is supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO grant number 904-66-104).

  • Conflict of interest: none.

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