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Neighbourhood Built Environment and Weight Status

Updated: Jun 23

Results from “Associations between the neighbourhood built environment and body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio: findings from Alberta’s Tomorrow Project”

Nichani, V., Turley, L., Vena, J.E., & McCormack, G.R.

The effects of the built environment on obesity

The built environment has an effect on population physical activity levels and can provide health benefits through reducing obesity (1). Neighbourhood built characteristics that are often associated with obesity include street intersection density (number of 3-way and 4-way intersections), business destination density (number of business destinations), population density, and green spaces (2, 3). A recent Canadian study estimated the associations between self-reported weight status outcomes risk categories (body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and waist to-hip ratio (WHR)) and neighbourhood characteristics, as well as how these associations differed by sex.

The associations between neighbourhood characteristics and weight status outcomes among Canadian men and women

Residents living in neighbourhoods with greater amounts of 4-way intersections and higher walkability were at less risk of overweight and obesity based on their BMI. Although no associations were found for WC alone, greater amounts of green spaces were related to a lower risk for obesity based on their WHR. Surprisingly, residents living in neighbourhoods with higher population density and walkability were at a higher risk of obesity based on their WHR.

Some of the neighbourhood environment-weight status associations were seen in men, whilst other associations were seen in women. Among men, higher business destinations and walkability were associated with lower overweight and obesity, and higher population density and walkability were associated with lower obesity only. Among women, higher amounts of green spaces were independently associated with lower overweight, lower obesity, and a lower likelihood of being in high-risk WC. Urban planning decisions to improve neighbourhood characteristics may prove to be beneficial to health of adults through lowering weight at a population level.


Suggested Citation: Vikram Nichani, Liam Turley, Jennifer E. Vena, Gavin R. McCormack. Associations between the neighbourhood built environment and body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio: findings from Alberta’s Tomorrow Project. Health and Place. 2020; 64: 102357.


Written by Vikram Nichani, PhD; Posted on June 4th, 2020

References:

  1. Van Dyck D, Cerin E, Cardon G, Deforche B, Sallis JF, Owen N, et al. Physical activity as a mediator of the associations between neighbourhood walkability and adiposity in Belgian adults. Health & Place. 2010; 16(5):952-60.

  2. Sarkar C. Residential greenness and adiposity: Findings from the UK Biobank. Environment International. 2017; 106:1-10.

  3. Pouliou T, Elliott SJ, Paez A, Newbold KB. Building obesity in Canada: understanding the individual- and neighbourhood-level determinants using a multi-level approach. Geospatial Health. 2014; 9(1):45-55.




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