Neighborhood built environment and income: examining multiple health outcomes

Soc Sci Med. 2009 Apr;68(7):1285-93. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.01.017. Epub 2009 Feb 18.


There is growing interest in the relation of built environments to physical activity, obesity, and other health outcomes. The purpose of the present study was to test associations of neighborhood built environment and median income to multiple health outcomes and examine whether associations are similar for low- and high-income groups. This was a cross-sectional study of 32 neighborhoods in Seattle, WA and Baltimore, MD regions, stratified by income and walkability, and conducted between 2001 and 2005. Participants were adults aged 20-65years (n=2199; 26% ethnic minority). The main outcomes were daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) from accelerometer monitoring, body mass index (BMI) based on self-report, and mental and physical quality of life (QoL) assessed with the SF-12. We found that MVPA was higher in high- vs. low-walkability neighborhoods but did not differ by neighborhood income. Overweight/obesity (BMI > or = 25) was lower in high-walkability neighborhoods. Physical QoL was higher in high-income neighborhoods but unrelated to walkability. Adjustment for neighborhood self-selection produced minor changes. We concluded that living in walkable neighborhoods was associated with more physical activity and lower overweight/obesity but not with other benefits. Lower- and higher-income groups benefited similarly from living in high-walkability neighborhoods. Adults in higher-income neighborhoods had lower BMI and higher physical QoL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Baltimore
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Income*
  • Life Style*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Quality of Life
  • Residence Characteristics / classification
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Walking
  • Washington