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People living in obesogenic environments, with limited access to healthful food outlets and exercise facilities, generally have poor health. Previous research suggests that behavioral risk factors and indicators of physiological functioning may mediate this link; however, no studies to date have had the requisite data to investigate multi-level behavioral and physiological risk factors simultaneously. The present study conducted serial and parallel mediation analyses to examine behavioral and physiological pathways explaining the association between environmental obesogenicity and cardiovascular disease (CVD).


This cross-sectional observational study used data from the 2012–2016 Health and Retirement Study, a representative survey of US older adults (n = 12,482, mean age 65.9). Environmental obesogenicity was operationalized as a combined score consisting of nine environmental measures of food and physical activity. CVD and health-compromising behaviors (diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, and exercise) were self-reported. Physiological dysregulation was assessed with measured blood pressure, heart rate, HbA1c, cholesterol levels, BMI, and C-reactive protein. The Hayes Process Macro was used to examine serial and parallel paths through health-compromising behaviors and physiological dysregulation in the environmental obesogenicity-CVD link.


People living in more obesogenic environments had greater odds of self-reported CVD (odds ratio = 1.074, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.028, 1.122), engaged in more health-compromising behaviors (β = 0.026, 95% CI: 0.008, 0.044), and had greater physiological dysregulation (β = 0.035, 95% CI: 0.017, 0.054). Combined, health-compromising behaviors and physiological dysregulation accounted for 7% of the total effects of environmental obesogenicity on CVD.


Behavioral and physiological pathways partially explain the environmental obesogenicity-CVD association. Obesogenic environments may stymie the success of cardiovascular health-promotion programs by reducing access to resources supporting healthy lifestyles.


This article was originally published in BMC Public Health, volume 22, in 2022.


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