The use of geographic information systems (GIS): mapping fast food restaurants, BMI, and mental health

The present study examined the relationships of fast food restaurant (FFR) density and proximity, Axis 1 psychiatric disorders, and gender to body mass index (BMI), using geographic information systems (GIS). The sample (N = 123) included adult patients primarily diagnosed with mood disorders (73%), female (63%), Caucasian (51%) and Hispanic (41%), and obese (55%) with an average BMI of 31 (SD = 7.06). On average, participants had access to 22 FFRs within two miles of their home. Findings were non-significant: FFR density and BMI were not correlated; BMI did not differ for those with primary mood disorder diagnoses versus other primary diagnoses; and women’s BMI values were not differentially related to proximity to FFR. Despite the lack of significant findings, the use of GIS to examine environmental factors influencing obesity and mental health status has great potential. Future studies should include a sample with more variability on relevant risk factors.