Nature vs. environment? Did you know that where you live can play a huge factor in longevity and quality of life? Find out how by reading on.
While both your genetics and your environment play a role in your overall health, new studies have found that your ZIP code has a huge influence on your wellbeing. For example, if Person A lives in an area with little to no pollution, and clean water, has access to fresh food from local farms, and has a low-stress lifestyle with plenty of exercise – and Person B lives in a polluted city in an impoverished area, eats lots of fast food, has high stress, and rarely exercises – Person A will most likely be much healthier based on their ZIP code.
One study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, found that for diseases and conditions that can develop by early adulthood, genes account for about 40 percent of variations from one person to another. Environment (i.e., climate, pollution, socioeconomic status, diet and lifestyle) accounts for most of the remaining 60 percent.
Genetics had the largest influence on early-in-life eye diseases and cognitive disorders. But environment was the clearest factor in morbid obesity and infections, such as Lyme disease. It was also the biggest factor in lead poisoning.
Many studies have shown that a person’s postal code has a strong effect on their total wellbeing. One 2013 study by the University of Washington found that people living in San Francisco or wealthy Washington, D.C. suburbs were much healthier than those living in Appalachia or rural Mississippi.
Similar studies have supported these findings. Many have found that different states have greatly different rates of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other diseases. These studies uphold what scientists and doctors have repeatedly stated: that health is often a combination of genes and environment. People with certain genetic predispositions are more likely, for example, to become obese if they live in a place where it’s hard to exercise and difficult to eat a healthy diet.
“Your ZIP Code Might Determine How Long You Love – and the Difference Could be Decades,” Jamie Ducharme, Time.com, Aug. 8, 2021.
“ZIP Code or Genetic Code?” Ekaterina Pesheva, Harvard.edu, Jan. 14, 20219.
“Which Affects Health More – DNA or ZIP Code?” Maggie Fox, nbcnews.com, Jan. 14, 2019.