Life stage and sex specificity in relationships between the built and socioeconomic environments and physical activity

Janne Heinonen, Penny Gordon-Larsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


Background: In the largely cross-sectional literature, built environment characteristics such as walkability and recreation centres are variably related to physical activity. Subgroup-specific effects could help explain inconsistent findings, yet few studies have compared built environment associations by key characteristics such as sex or life stage. Methods: Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (wave I 1994-5, wave III 2001-2; n=12 701) and a linked geographic information system, cross-sectional relationships between moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) bouts and built and socioeconomic environment measures were estimated. Negative binomial generalised estimating equation regression modelled MVPA as a function of logtransformed environment measures, controlling for individual sociodemographics and testing for interactions with sex and life stage (waves I and III, when respondents were adolescents and young adults, respectively). Results: Higher landscape diversity (coefficient 0.040; 95% CI 0.019 to 0.062) and lower crime (coefficient -0.047; 95% CI -0.071 to -0.022) were related to greater weekly MVPA regardless of sex or life stage. Higher street connectivity was marginally related to lower MVPA (coefficient -0.176; 95% CI -0.357 to 0.005) in females but not males. Pay facilities and public facilities per 10 000 population and median household income were unrelated to MVPA. Conclusions: Similar relationships between higher MVPA and higher landscape diversity and lower crime rate across sex and life stage suggest that application of these environment features may benefit broad populations. Sex-specific associations for street connectivity may partly account for the variation in findings across studies and have implications for targeting physical activity promotion strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-852
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology

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