Introduction — We examined whether adults living in highly walkable areas are less likely to develop pre-diabetes and if so, whether this association is consistent according to immigration status and ethnicity.
Research Design and Methods — Population-level health, immigration, and administrative databases were used to identify adults aged 20–64 (n=1 128 181) who had normoglycemia between January 2011 and December 2011 and lived in one of 15 cities in Southern Ontario, Canada. Individuals were assigned to one of ten deciles (D) of neighborhood walkability (from lowest (D1) to highest (D10)) and followed until December 2013 for the development of pre-diabetes.
Results — Overall, 220 225 individuals in our sample developed pre-diabetes during a median follow-up of 8.4 years. Pre-diabetes incidence was 20% higher among immigrants living in the least (D1) (adjusted HR 1.20, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.25, p<0.0001) versus most (D10, referent) walkable neighborhoods after accounting for age, sex, and area income. Findings were similar among long-term residents and across sexes. However, susceptibility to walkability varied by ethnicity where D1 versus D10 adjusted HRs ranged from 1.17 (95% CI 1.02 to 1.35, p=0.03) among West Asian and Arab immigrants to 1.32 (95% CI 1.19 to 1.47, p<0.0001) in Southeast Asians. Ethnic variation in pre-diabetes incidence was more marked in low walkability settings. Relative to Western Europeans, the adjusted HR for pre-diabetes incidence was 2.11 (95% CI 1.81 to 2.46, p<0.0001) and 1.50 (95% CI 1.27 to 1.77, p<0.0001) among Sub-Saharan African and the Carribean and Latin American immigrants, respectively, living in the least walkable (D1) neighborhoods, but only 1.24 (95% CI 1.08 to 1.42, p=0.002) and 1.00 (95% CI 0.87 to 1.15, p=0.99) for these same groups living in the most walkable (D10) neighborhoods.
Conclusions — Pre-diabetes incidence was reduced in highly walkable areas for most groups living in Southern Ontario cities. These findings suggest a potential role for walkable urban design in diabetes prevention.
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