Ageing in an ultra-dense metropolis: perceived neighbourhood characteristics and utilitarian walking in Hong Kong elders

Public Health Nutr. 2014 Jan;17(1):225-32. doi: 10.1017/S1368980012003862. Epub 2012 Aug 21.


Objective: The neighbourhood built environment may affect walking behaviour of elders. However, such effects remain underexplored, especially in an Asian context. We examined associations of perceived environmental attributes with overall and neighbourhood-specific walking for transport in a sample of Chinese elders residing in Hong Kong, an ultra-dense Chinese metropolis.

Design: Cross-sectional observational study using a two-stage stratified sampling strategy.

Setting: Hong Kong, China.

Subjects: Chinese-speaking elders (n 484), with no cognitive impairment and able to walk without assistance, residing in thirty-two selected communities stratified by socio-economic status and walkability, were interviewer-administered validated measures of perceived neighbourhood environment and walking for transport.

Results: Much higher levels of transport-related walking (mean 569 (sd 452) min/week) than found in Western samples were reported. The degree of perceived access to shops, crowdedness, presence of sitting facilities and easy access of residential entrance were independently positively related to both frequency of overall and within-neighbourhood walking for transportation. Infrastructure for walking and access to public transport were predictive of higher frequency of transport-related walking irrespective of location, while the perceived degree of land-use mix was predictive of higher levels of within-neighbourhood walking.

Conclusions: The provision of easy access to shops, residential entrances and sitting facilities in the neighbourhood may promote overall transport-related walking, while a good public transport network and pedestrian infrastructure linking destination-poor with destination-rich locations may compensate for the detrimental effects of living in less walkable neighbourhoods. Governmental investment in these micro- and macro-environmental features would help the promotion of an active lifestyle in elders.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transportation
  • Walking*