Moving from a racially segregated community can decrease blood pressure

(Mirror Daily, United States) – A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that moving from segregated communities might prove beneficial to African Americans. If they choose to live in a racially diverse environment, their blood pressure can improve.

The systolic blood pressure decreased in a racially mixed community

Researchers measured the systolic blood pressure of African Americans who lived in a racially segregated community. Then, they noticed how it improved when they moved to other neighborhoods which were more mixed. Moving away led to drops from 1.2 to 1.3 mmHG in their systolic blood pressure.

Even if it sounds like a small decrease, it is substantial. Researchers say that this is enough to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events, such as stroke, heart failure, or coronary heart disease. Kiarri Kershaw, one of the lead authors of the study and professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, thinks their findings are relevant.

“These findings are important because they point to the important role social policies can have in health.”

For over twenty years, researchers closely observed 2,280 African Americans who moved in different neighborhoods. In 1985, when they started the study, the participants lived in Oakland, California; Minneapolis; Birmingham, Alabama; and Chicago.

The study has its limitations

Around 82 percent of these participants lived in highly segregated neighborhoods, 12 percent of them lived in communities with a medium level of segregation, while 6 percent lived in areas with low segregation. Also, researchers tracked them to see how often they relocated. Almost all of them moved at least once, and more than half moved around three times.

They found a relation between the environment in which these people lived and systolic blood pressure only. There was no connection between the social factor and diastolic blood pressure. Also, the study was not controlled to see how community segregation influences blood pressure.

Moreover, the research had many limitations, since it did not account for other factors which could have influenced the results. However, the findings are relevant enough to support the idea that social communities influence the health of their members.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons