Growing Up in a Poor Neighborhood May Increase Risk of Chlamydia

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Growing up in a poor neighborhood can lead to an increased risk of chlamydia infection as an adult, according to a study by researchers at Ohio State University. 

The report, “Neighborhoods and Infectious Disease Risk: Acquisition of Chlamydia During the Transition to Young Adult,” published recently in the Journal of Urban Health, found that young people who grew up in poor communities were 25 percent more likely to contract the sexually transmitted infection (STI) than those who grew up in more affluent neighborhoods. According to the study’s authors this is true even for youth who grew up in poor communities but whose family was not necessarily poor themselves.

“We have a lot of interventions trying to address the sexual risk behaviors, but few target neighborhood poverty and disadvantage,” lead report author Jodi Ford said in a press release. “And this work shows that living in a poor neighborhood can have a long-term effect on health.”

Using data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, researchers studied interviews with youth conducted at ages 15, 18 and 27 from a sample population of more than 11,000 young people.

Researchers determined that by age 27, nearly 5 percent of the young people included in the study were infected with chlamydia. However, the researchers could not explain the connection between poor communities and adult chlamydia infection. According to the report, the elevated infection risk of living in impoverished neighborhoods was largely unaffected by other known STI risk factors, including depression, sexual activity at earlier ages or even having multiple sexual partners.

The study’s authors called for further research and prevention strategies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chlamydia is the most commonly transmitted bacterial STI in the nation, with an estimated. 2.86 million infections occurring annually in the United States. The CDC estimates one in 15 sexually active girls between the ages of 14 and 19 have chlamydia.