Neighborhood deprivation and biomarkers of health in Britain: the mediating role of the physical environment

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

BMC Public Health


M. Pia Chaparro, Michaela Benzeval, Elizabeth Richardson and Richard Mitchell

Publication date


Background: Neighborhood deprivation has been consistently linked to poor individual health outcomes; however, studies exploring the mechanisms involved in this association are scarce. The objective of this study was to investigate whether objective measures of the physical environment mediate the association between neighborhood socioeconomic deprivation and biomarkers of health in Britain.
Methods: We linked individual-level biomarker data from Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Survey (2010–2012) to neighborhood-level data from different governmental sources. Our outcome variables were forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1%; n=16,347), systolic blood pressure (SBP; n=16,846), body mass index (BMI; n=19,417), and levels of C-reactive protein (CRP; n=11,825). Our measure of neighborhood socioeconomic deprivation was the Carstairs index, and the neighborhood-level mediators were levels of air pollutants (sulphur dioxide [SO2], particulate matter [PM10], nitrogen dioxide [NO2], and carbon monoxide [CO]), green space, and proximity to waste and industrial facilities. We fitted a multilevel mediation model following a multilevel structural equation framework in MPlus v7.4, adjusting for age, gender, and income.
Results: Residents of poor neighborhoods and those exposed to higher pollution and less green space had worse health outcomes. However, only SO2 exposure significantly and partially mediated the association between neighborhood socioeconomic deprivation and SBP, BMI, and CRP.
Conclusion: Reducing air pollution exposure and increasing access to green space may improve population health but may not decrease health inequalities in Britain.







Area Effects, Geography, Health and Biology


Open Access; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.; Referenced by: Understanding Society (2018) ‘Written evidence from Understanding Society the UK Household Longitudinal Study (WSN0051) [Work and Pensions Select Committee. Welfare safety net inquiry]’. London: Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Work and Pensions Select Committee.