Neighbourhood effects on body constitution-A case study of Hong Kong

Soc Sci Med. 2016 Jun;158:61-74. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.04.011. Epub 2016 Apr 13.


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long perceived environment as an integral part of the development of body constitution, which is a personal state of health closely related to disease presence. Despite of the ever-growing studies on the clinical effectiveness of TCM and the scientific linking between body constitution and diseases, the geographical influence on body constitution has yet remained an unexplored territory. This study sought to investigate whether the neighbourhood environment is relevant to the composition of body type of a population through statistical multilevel and Geographic Information Systems modelling. The analysis comprised 3277 participants who had completed their body type assessment between 2009 and 2012 inclusive. The multilevel analysis also took simultaneous accounts of both individual-level (gender, age, BMI, type of housing) and area-level (percent greenery, percent road surface, total road intersection, sky view factor, temperature, relative humidity, rainfall and social deprivation index) characteristics to explain geographical variation by body types. Significant random or place effects (p < 0.001) were identified in the multilevel models. The spatial variation of body constitution involved the dynamic interplay between individual and environmental factors. The findings amassed the first scientific indications to back the common belief that place does play a role in the development of body constitution and is worthy of further investigation. By considering spatial and personal attributes simultaneously, the study can yield valuable insights into the patterning of area variation in body constitution and disease presence.

Keywords: Body constitution; Geographic information system (GIS); Hong Kong; Multilevel model; Neighbourhood effect; Traditional chinese medicine (TCM).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Constitution / immunology*
  • Female
  • Geographic Mapping*
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Residence Characteristics*