I have often been interested in and read plenty of books, research material and documentation over the years about environmental psychology.

In my life, for example, I have found myself drawn to older neighbourhoods because in England, they tend to have larger plots of land, be more spaced out and have a variety of differing houses (rather than all looking the same) which I find more pleasing.

I have close friends and family who are more interested in modern homes because they have less garden to look after and have modern appliances fitted and years of modern living considerations taken into account on many levels throughout the house.

Apparently street designers and city planners take into account a vast number of psychological matters these days when planning neighbourhoods. I wonder if they realise or not that the street someone lives in could be making the people who live there a lot fatter?

Ok, ok, so here we go, this latest piece of research in the New Scientist states the following:

The street where you live could be making you fat. That’s what a study of 450,000 Americans suggests.

Ken Smith and colleagues at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City gleaned the height, weight and address details of people living in the Salt Lake City area from a database of drivers’ licences.

They then used census and map data to score neighbourhoods on various measures of “walkability”.

People with a lower body mass index — a measure of obesity — tended to live in areas with older buildings and where a higher proportion of people walked to work.

Building age is a factor in Salt Lake City, Smith says, because older houses tend to be surrounded by sidewalks, trees and shade, and close to shops, making it “easy and pleasant” to walk compared to newer neighbourhoods. “Older homes were built with pedestrians in mind.”

The average difference in BMI between the top and bottom 25% of neighbourhoods was 1.28 for men — equating to 4.5 kilos for someone 1.83 metres tall — and 0.95 for women, or 3 kilos for someone 1.65 metres tall.

Making cities more walkable won’t necessarily keep people in trim, however, as they may choose areas to suit their behaviour, rather than vice versa, he says.

“If it’s truly all selection, changing the environment is just going to induce a kind of migration,” Smith says.

I am not sure if it is because my street has a well-known hypnotherapist living on it, but I have found that everyone on my street is in pretty good shape… Most in my street do drive to work though, so we could be piling on the pounds very soon…

Do you have experience of your location really influencing any aspect of your psychology or physical well-being? I’d love to hear…