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Open Access Research

Socioeconomic position and health status of people who live near busy roads: the Rome Longitudinal Study (RoLS)

Giulia Cesaroni1*, Chiara Badaloni1, Valeria Romano2, Eugenio Donato2, Carlo A Perucci1 and Francesco Forastiere1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology of the Regional Health Service, Lazio Region, via S.Costanza 53, 00198 Rome, Italy

2 Department of Environmental Policies, Rome Local Council, Circonvallazione Ostiense 191, 00154 Rome, Italy

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Environmental Health 2010, 9:41  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-9-41

Published: 21 July 2010

Abstract

Background

Subjects living close to high traffic roads (HTR) are more likely to suffer from air-pollution related morbidity and mortality. The issue has large public health consequences but few studies have described the main socio-demographic characteristics of people exposed to traffic.

Objectives

To characterise a large cohort of residents in Rome according to different measures of traffic exposure, socioeconomic position (SEP), and baseline health status.

Methods

Residents of Rome in October 2001 were selected. Individual and area-based SEP indices were available. GIS was used to obtain traffic indicators at residential addresses: distance from HTR (> = 10,000 vehicles/day), length of HTR, average daily traffic count, and traffic density within 150 meters of home. Hospitalisations in the 5-year period before enrolment were used to characterise health status. Logistic and linear regression analyses estimated the association between traffic exposure and socio-demographic characteristics.

Results

We selected 1,898,898 subjects with complete SEP information and GIS traffic indicators. A total of 320,913 individuals (17%) lived within 50 meters of an HTR, and 14% lived between 50 and 100 meters. These proportions were higher among 75+ year-old subjects. Overall, all traffic indicators were directly associated with SEP, with people living in high or medium SEP areas or with a university degree more likely to be exposed to traffic than people living in low SEP areas or with a low level of education. However, an effect modification by area of residence within the city was seen and the association between traffic and SEP was reversed in the city centre.

Conclusions

A large section of the population is exposed to traffic in Rome. Elderly people and those living in areas of high and medium SEP tend to be more exposed. These findings are related to the historical stratification of the population within the city according to age and socioeconomic status.