A report to be released Monday found that people who live in areas with a high degree of sprawl are more likely to report chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, arthritis, headaches and breathing difficulties compared to residents in less sprawled-out areas.
The differences remained even when researchers accounted for factors such as age, economic status and race.
"People who live in more sprawling areas are more likely to have chronic health problems over time," said Roland Sturm, co-author of the report by Rand Corp., a nonprofit research group. "People drive more in these areas, they walk less."
Researchers said the findings suggest that an adult who lives in a sprawling city such as Atlanta, Georgia, will have health characteristics similar to someone four years older, but otherwise similar, who lives in a more compact city like Seattle, Washington.