Elevated C-reactive protein in children from risky neighborhoods: evidence for a stress pathway linking neighborhoods and inflammation in children

Stephanie T. Broyles, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University System, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. stephanie.broyles@pbrc.edu
Amanda E. Staiano
Kathryn T. Drazba
Alok K. Gupta
Melinda Sothern
Peter T. Katzmarzyk


BACKGROUND: Childhood socioeconomic status is linked to adult cardiovascular disease and disease risk. One proposed pathway involves inflammation due to exposure to a stress-inducing neighborhood environment. Whether CRP, a marker of systemic inflammation, is associated with stressful neighborhood conditions among children is unknown. METHODS AND RESULTS: The sample included 385 children 5-18 years of age from 255 households and 101 census tracts. Multilevel logistic regression analyses compared children and adolescents with CRP levels >3 mg/L to those with levels ≤ 3 mg/L across neighborhood environments. Among children living in neighborhoods (census tracts) in the upper tertile of poverty or crime, 18.6% had elevated CRP levels, in contrast to 7.9% of children living in neighborhoods with lower levels of poverty and crime. Children from neighborhoods with the highest levels of either crime or poverty had 2.7 (95% CI: 1.2-6.2) times the odds of having elevated CRP levels when compared to children from other neighborhoods, independent of adiposity, demographic and behavioral differences. CONCLUSIONS: Children living in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty or crime had elevated CRP levels compared to children from other neighborhoods. This result is consistent with a psychosocial pathway favoring early development of cardiovascular risk that involves chronic stress from exposure to socially- and physically-disordered neighborhoods characteristic of poverty.