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Higher neighborhood drivability is associated with a higher diabetes risk in younger adults: a population-based cohort study in Toronto, Canada


Objective — Car dependency contributes to physical inactivity and, consequently, may increase the likelihood of diabetes. We investigated whether neighborhoods that are highly conducive to driving confer a greater risk of developing diabetes and, if so, whether this differs by age.

Research Design and Methods — We used administrative healthcare data to identify all working-age Canadian adults (20–64 years) who were living in Toronto on 1 April 2011 without diabetes (type 1 or 2). Neighborhood drivability scores were assigned using a novel, validated index that predicts driving patterns based on built environment features divided into quintiles. Cox regression was used to examine the association between neighborhood drivability and 7-year risk of diabetes onset, overall and by age-group, adjusting for baseline characteristics and comorbidities.

Results — Overall, there were 1,473,994 adults in the cohort (mean age 40.9 ± 12.2 years), among whom 77,835 developed diabetes during follow-up. Those living in the most drivable neighborhoods (quintile 5) had a 41% higher risk of developing diabetes compared with those in the least drivable neighborhoods (adjusted hazard ratio 1.41, 95% CI 1.37–1.44), with the strongest associations in younger adults aged 20–34 years (1.57, 95% CI 1.47–1.68, P < 0.001 for interaction). The same comparison in older adults (55–64 years) yielded smaller differences (1.31, 95% CI 1.26–1.36). Associations appeared to be strongest in middle-income neighborhoods for younger residents (middle income 1.96, 95% CI 1.64–2.33) and older residents (1.46, 95% CI 1.32–1.62).

Conclusions — High neighborhood drivability is a risk factor for diabetes, particularly in younger adults. This finding has important implications for future urban design policies.



den Braver NR, Beulens JWJ, Wu CF, Fazli GS, Gozdyra P, Howell NA, Lakerveld J, Moin JS, Rutters F, Brug J, Moineddin R, Booth GL. Diabetes Care. 2023; 46(6):1177-84. Epub 2023 Mar 23.

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