Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is preventable, it is increasing in prevalence and it is a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality. Importantly, residents of neighbourhoods with high levels of disorder are more likely to develop T2D than those living in less disordered neighbourhoods and neighbourhood disorder may exacerbate genetic risk for T2D.
We use genetic, self-reported neighbourhood, and health data from the Health and Retirement Study. We conducted weighted logistic regression analyses in which neighbourhood disorder, polygenic scores for T2D and their interaction predicted T2D.
Greater perceptions of neighbourhood disorder (OR=1.11, p<0.001) and higher polygenic scores for T2D (OR=1.42, p<0.001) were each significantly and independently associated with an increased risk of T2D. Furthermore, living in a neighbourhood perceived as having high levels of disorder exacerbated genetic risk for T2D (OR=1.10, p=0.001). This significant gene×environment interaction was observed after adjusting for years of schooling, age, gender, levels of physical activity and obesity.
Findings in the present study suggested that minimising people’s exposure to vandalism, vacant buildings, trash and circumstances viewed by residents as unsafe may reduce the burden of this prevalent chronic health condition, particularly for subgroups of the population who carry genetic liability for T2D.