Seeing fewer older people in the street may lead low-income adults to fast-track their lives

Sep 18, 2012

Why do people in deprived areas live life in the fast lane? It may be because of the age of people they observe in the street, according to a new study by Daniel Nettle and colleagues from Newcastle University in the UK. Their work suggests that because fewer older people are seen out in the street in deprived neighborhoods, younger generations assume that people die young. As a result, they may be adapting the speed at which they live their lives accordingly—for example, by having children earlier in life. Nettle and team's work is published online in Springer's journal Human Nature.

The researchers looked at the 'social diet'—or the daily distribution of types of people to whom one is exposed—in two neighborhoods in Newcastle. One neighborhood was affluent, the other was poor. They walked through the main streets of both neighborhoods six times, recording the estimated ages of every man, woman, and child they passed. They then compared their recordings with , to establish how closely what people witness in the street reflects the actual age distribution of the population in these two neighborhoods.

They found that in the affluent neighborhood, more people over the age of 40—and over 60 in particular—were seen than in the deprived area. In contrast, more were observed on the streets in the . However, this was not an accurate picture of the actual of residents in the two neighborhoods. In reality, more residents over 60 were living in the deprived area than in the affluent one. The authors comment that this discrepancy between what people see and the reality of who lives where is not a reflection of the different age profiles of people who live there, but rather of differences in the ways in which residents use the streets.

The authors conclude: "Chronic exposure to a world where there are many visible young adults and few visible old ones may activate that produce fast life-history strategies."

Explore further: Poll surveys residents of two war-torn African nations

More information: Nettle D et al (2012). No country for old men: street use and social diet in urban Newcastle. Human Nature. DOI 10.1007/s12110-012-9153-9

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Life expectancy success story

Aug 26, 2011

Life expectancy is increasing all the time due to better quality of life and better health care. Despite this, increases in life expectancy can be patchy, with some sources reporting that the gap in life expectancy between ...

Area safety may play role in obesity

May 02, 2006

A Pennsylvania study suggests mothers of young children are more likely to be obese when they perceive their neighborhoods as unsafe.

Walk places, meet people and build social capital

Dec 07, 2010

People who live in walkable communities are more civically involved and have greater levels of trust than those who live in less walkable neighborhoods. And this increase in so-called 'social capital' is associated with higher ...

Recommended for you

When rulers can't understand the ruled

5 hours ago

Johns Hopkins University political scientists wanted to know if America's unelected officials have enough in common with the people they govern to understand them.

When casualties increased, war coverage became more negative

9 hours ago

As the number of U.S. casualties rose in Afghanistan, reporters filed more stories about the conflict and those articles grew increasingly negative about both the war effort and the military, according to a Penn State researcher. ...

Poll surveys residents of two war-torn African nations

14 hours ago

Researchers fanned out in one of the most dangerous corners of the globe late last year, asking residents of a brutalized part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) their thoughts on violence, security, ...

Drunk driving women treated differently than men

14 hours ago

A study by Victoria University of Wellington's Health Services Research Centre explores attitudes and behaviours surrounding women and drink-driving, and the extent to which they have changed over the past decade.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2012
Or maybe it's seeing the 18-24yr old pimps and drug dealers driving around in Mercedes, Lexus,and Cadillacs and figuring they ought to get busy living instead of investing another 8-12 years in school.
1 / 5 (1) Sep 18, 2012
what the fuck... Is this a serious article or a joke? Everyone knows that people live into their 70's or 80's all the time, regardless of who you find on the sidewalk
1 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2012
Those old folk not out in the street in poor areas are staying hidden indoors for a reason--they are more likely to be chronically ill and suffering mobility problems than those in richer neighborhoods. Young folk know this in poor areas and react appropriately--live fast while they can.
not rated yet Sep 19, 2012
I think the older people in deprived areas might be more depressed or more likely to be sick