Neighbourhood inequalities in physical inactivity: the role of neighbourhood attractiveness, proximity to local facilities and safety in the Netherlands

Soc Sci Med. 2005 Feb;60(4):763-75. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.06.013.


We investigated the association between the neighbourhood socioeconomic environment and physical inactivity, and explored the contribution of neighbourhood characteristics to this association. Data were analysed of 20-69 years old participants of the Dutch GLOBE study who lived in 78 neighbourhoods of Eindhoven (n = 8.767). The neighbourhood socioeconomic environment was assessed from aggregated self-reported information of participants' education and occupation level, and employment status. Aspects of physical inactivity investigated were based on the time spent on (a) walking and cycling to shops or work, (b) walking, cycling and gardening in leisure time, and (c) participation in sports activities. Characteristics of neighbourhoods included the proximity to food shops, general physical design of neighbourhoods, quality of green facilities, noise pollution from traffic and required police attention as evaluated by municipal services (professionals) responsible for these characteristics. Compared to those living in the most advantaged neighbourhoods, residents living in the quartile of socio-economically most disadvantaged neighbourhoods were more likely to walk or cycle to shops or work, but less likely to walk, cycle or garden in leisure time and less likely to participate in sports activities (adjusted for age, sex and individual educational level). Neighbourhood inequalities in walking or cycling to shops or work were not mediated by specific neighbourhood characteristics included in our analyses. The increased probability of almost never walking, cycling and gardening in leisure time in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods was partly mediated by a poorer general physical design in these neighbourhoods. Similarly, the increased probability of almost never participating in sports activities in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods was partly mediated by larger amounts of required police attention. The direction of neighbourhood inequalities differs for aspects of physical inactivity. Neighbourhood characteristics are related to physical inactivity and contribute to neighbourhood socioeconomic inequalities in physical inactivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Crime
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Police
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sports
  • Surveys and Questionnaires