“Nature versus nurture” is still up for debate: How do our personalities form? Are we born a certain way, or are humans shaped by environment and upbringing? Recent research has brought a similar question to light, but this one concerns physical health and wellbeing.

Researchers at The Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation just revealed a series of maps illustrating life expectancy. According to the VCU Center on Society and Health, these graphics show that neighborhoods can drastically affect opportunities to lead a long and healthy life.

"When it comes to health, the choices we make depend on the choices available to us," associate research director Derek Chapman, Ph.D. said, according to Medical Xpress. "Some neighborhoods have more liquor stores than grocery stores, lack safe and affordable housing, or have poor quality schools. And many urban and rural areas have experienced generations of isolation from opportunity. America cannot be healthy if we are leaving behind whole communities."

Research showed that a distance of only five miles can change a neighborhood's average life expectancy by as much as 20 years. For example, in the five miles from North Philadelphia to the city’s Society Hill, life expectancy can differ by two decades. Between New York City’s East Harlem and Murray Hill neighborhoods, which are just six subway stops away from each other, life expectancy can differ by nearly 10 years.

Researchers created the maps using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as from state and local health agencies.

The next challenge is to close longevity gaps and create a healthier population overall.

"To build a Culture of Health we must build a society where everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, has the opportunity to lead a fulfilling, productive and healthy life," RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D said, according to Medical Xpress. "There's no one-size-fits-all solution. Each community must chart its own course and everyone has a role to play for better health in their homes, in their neighborhoods, in their schools and in their towns."

Read more:

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