New Yorkers are getting heavier, eating more takeout, watching more TV, and getting less sleep according to a series of studies published in the Journal of Urban Health.
Obesity is on the rise in the city, as more people eat take out and restaurant food, from about 3 meals a week to 4. The obesity rate is not uniform, and affects ethnic and racial groups differently. African-Americans had the highest rate of obesity, at 37 percent, and Asian-Americans experience the largest increase in obesity, from 20-29 percent.
And with a bajillion more hours of shows available online, it's no surprise that New Yorkers are also glued to their screens. The number of people who watch 3 or more hours of TV or video a day jumped by 32 percent over the past 10 years.
The insights come from NYU Langone Health and the New York City Health Department, which conducted a NYC Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NYC-HANES), taking a sample of 1,500 New Yorkers in a way to represent every adult throughout the city. The first NYC-HANES study was done in 2004, and these findings come from its most recent update, 2014.
“For the first time, we are getting a long-term look at New Yorkers’ physical health using objective measures, such as blood cholesterol and sugar levels, diet, weight, as well as mental health and chronic diseases,” says epidemiologist Lorna Thorpe, one of the study's principal investigators. “This information is critical for physicians and policymakers to identify and address troubling trends, such as increasingly sedentary lifestyles, increases in screen time, more restaurant meals, and consumption of fewer fruits and vegetables."
According to the survey, New Yorkers are eating about 28 percent fewer fruits and vegetables, and there has been no overall change in physical activity. However, women are eating more fruits and vegetables than men, while men have higher rates of physical activity than women.
These behavioral changes have also increased the rate of diabetes in the city. As a whole, diabetes has increased from 13 to 16 percent, but the highest proportion of diabetes is found in the Asian community, at 24 percent. Also, adults who had lower education, lower income, and were born outside of the country had “significantly elevated” rates of diabetes.
Lack of sleep also seems to be a big problem among New Yorkers; 41 percent of New Yorkers reported issues with sleep. This was the only study in the set that showed the differences in terms of sexuality. (A spokesperson for NYU Langone said that was because the lead researcher, Dustin Duncan, specializes in LGBT health issues. "He had the data available, so he used it as part of his overall field of research," the spokesperson said.)
Bisexuals had the highest percent of sleep problems, at 62.7 percent. Gay men reported 58.5 percent of sleep problems, straight women 45.1 percent, straight men 35.1 percent, and lesbians 34.8 percent.
Untreated depression is also a big problem in New York. According to these studies, 8.3 percent of New Yorkers have symptoms of moderate to severe depression, and more than half are not treating it. Of this group, New Yorkers with symptoms of depression but who have not been diagnosed are more than three times as likely to be unemployed than those who have been diagnosed.
These studies were done with the NYC Health Department, which is working to address these issues with programs like the expansion of SNAP Health Bucks, $2 coupons that can be used to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, the Shop Healthy program that gives more access to produce in neighborhoods with high rates of obesity, and their ad campaign against sugary drinks.
In the meantime, recover from these depressing stats with an uplifting kitten rescue.