Food deserts and cardiovascular health among young adults

Alexander Testa, Dylan B. Jackson, Daniel C. Semenza, Michael G. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study assesses the association between living in a food desert and cardiovascular health risk among young adults in the USA, as well as evaluates whether personal and area socioeconomic status moderates this relationship. Design: A cross-sectional analysis was performed using data from Wave I (1993-1994) and Wave IV (2008) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Ordinary least squares regression models assessing the association between living in a food desert and cardiovascular health were performed. Mediation and moderation analyses assessed the degree to which this association was conditioned by area and personal socioeconomic status. Setting: Sample of respondents living in urban census tracts in the USA in 2008. Participants: Young adults (n 8896) aged 24-34 years. Results: Net of covariates living in a food desert had a statistically significant association with cardiovascular health risk (range 0-14) (β = 0·048, P < 0·01). This association was partially mediated by area and personal socioeconomic status. Further analyses demonstrate that the adverse association between living in a food desert and cardiovascular health is concentrated among low socioeconomic status respondents. Conclusions: The findings from this study suggest a complex interplay between food deserts and economic conditions for the cardiovascular health of young adults. Developing interventions that aim to improve health behaviour among lower-income populations may yield benefits for preventing the development of cardiovascular health problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-124
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jan

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements: This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from twenty three other federal agencies and foundations. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( ). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Financial support: This research received no funding or financial support. Conflict of interest: Authors do not have any conflicts of interest including financial interests or relationships or affiliations relevant to the subject of the manuscript. Authorship: A.T. conceptualised the study, conducted the data analysis and contributed to the writing. D.B.J. helped conceptualise the study and contributed to the writing. D.C.S. contributed to the writing of the study. M.G.V. contributed to the writing of the study. All authors reviewed, commented and revised drafts of the manuscript. Ethics of human subject participation: This study was conducted according to the guidelines laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki, and all procedures involving human subjects/patients were approved by the University of Texas at San Antonio Institutional Review Board. Written informed consent was obtained from all subjects/patients.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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