Ageing and the city: Chronic diseases more prevalent in city-dwellers than country counterparts

September 28, 2012

Ageing Australian city-dwellers are more likely to suffer from non-infectious chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cancer and asthma than their rural counterparts, according to new research from the University of Sydney.

The research, conducted by academics from the University's Faculty of Health Sciences and published in this month's edition of the Australasian Journal of Ageing, tracked seven years of for 1256 over-45s who had lived in the same area for at least 20 years.

Results showed people living in urban areas had greater odds of having from a non-infectious chronic disease than people in rural and remote areas.

Every year of age increased the odds of having a long-term health condition by 1.05, or five percent compared with the previous year, while living in the lowest socioeconomic area increased the odds of having a long-term by 90 percent.

"In the city you're exposed to a range of , such as , aircraft and road noise, high density housing, lack of adequate transport, poor urban design, a lack of green spaces and , and so on," says lead author Professor Deborah Black, from the University's Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit.

Lower was associated with a higher prevalence of non-infectious chronic disease because cheaper housing was generally located in areas with high levels of environmental stressors, such as industrial areas, airports or busy roads.

"As people get older, their bodies are less able to cope physiologically with environmental stressors, and exposure can accelerate the and trigger or exacerbate disease," Professor Black says.

"With 85 percent of Australians living in the city and 22 percent of Australians estimated to be 65 or older by 2026, it's crucial that we update policy, urban design and primary care in line with the realities of our population."

The research responds to a pressing need to better understand the problems faced by Australia's increasingly urban, ageing population. While the link between urbanisation and population health is well established, until now there has been very little research on the interaction between age and urban living.

According to Professor Black, climate change is one of the most critical issues for the health of ageing Australians.

"In cities, the lack of trees and green spaces create what's called the heat island effect, wherein the sun heats exposed urban surfaces such as roads, roofs, and pavements to temperatures up to 50 degrees Celsius hotter than the air temperature," she says.

"Because older people are less able to cope with high temperatures, they are more at risk of climate change-related health problems than the rest of the population. Effective thermoregulation and hydration are particularly difficult for older people in hot weather, which can lead to problems with heart and kidney function, medication management and falls.

"We also find that because an ageing population is not as mobile, they don't have the opportunity to get away from the environmental stressors around their home and community."

Explore further: High respiratory burden found in ageing population

Related Stories

High respiratory burden found in ageing population

September 4, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—People aged 85 years and over have a high burden of respiratory disease, according to new findings from Newcastle University. The research has shed light on the health problems likely to be encountered ...

Healthy ageing more important than aged care, expert says

November 14, 2011
Deep-seated ageism is at the core of our culture and at the heart of an unproductive government approach to healthy ageing, says Professor Hal Kendig, Director of the Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit in the Faculty of ...

Risk of contracting diabetes to increase in world of 7 billion people

November 14, 2011
World citizen number 7 billion is less likely to die from infectious diseases like measles or even AIDS, and more likely to contract diabetes or other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), as they are now the leading causes of ...

Heart study suggests city center pollution doubles risk of calcium build-up in arteries

April 26, 2012
City centre residents who took part in a study were almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery calcification (CAC), which can lead to heart disease, than people who lived in less polluted urban and rural areas, ...

Low income, poor diet linked to accelerated aging

July 28, 2011
A new study of the DNA of people living in Glasgow suggests that earning less than the average wage and eating an unhealthy diet could accelerate the ageing process.

Recommended for you

State-level disclosure laws affect patients' eagerness to have their DNA tested

December 12, 2017
Different types of privacy laws in U.S. states produce markedly different effects on the willingness of patients to have genetic testing done, according to a new study co-authored by an MIT professor.

Babies born during famine have lower cognition in midlife

December 12, 2017
Hunger and malnutrition in infancy may lead to poor cognitive performance in midlife, according to a new study.

Full moon linked to increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes

December 11, 2017
The full moon is associated with an increased risk of fatal motorcycle crashes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, finds a study in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

'Man flu' may be real

December 11, 2017
The much-debated phenomenon of "man flu" may have some basis in fact, suggests an article published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Study suggests being proud may protect against falls in older people

December 11, 2017
Contrary to the old saying "pride comes before a fall", the opposite appears to be true, according to a study published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Peppa Pig may encourage inappropriate use of primary care services

December 11, 2017
Exposure to the children's television series Peppa Pig may be contributing to unrealistic expectations of primary care and encouraging inappropriate use of services, suggests a doctor in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.