A national examination of neighborhood socio-economic disparities in built environment correlates of youth physical activity

Prev Med Rep. 2021 Mar 12;22:101358. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2021.101358. eCollection 2021 Jun.


Adolescents in the U.S. do not meet current physical activity guidelines. Ecological models of physical activity posit that factors across multiple levels may support physical activity by promoting walkability, such as the neighborhood built environment and neighborhood socioeconomic status (nSES). We examined associations between neighborhood built environment factors and adolescent moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and whether nSES moderated associations. Data were drawn from a national sample of adolescents (12-17 years, N = 1295) surveyed in 2014. MVPA (minutes/week) were estimated from self-report validated by accelerometer data. Adolescents' home addresses were geocoded and linked to Census data from which a nSES Index and home neighborhood factors were derived using factor analysis (high density, older homes, short auto commutes). Multiple linear regression models examined associations between neighborhood factors and MVPA, and tested interactions between quintiles of nSES and each neighborhood factor, adjusting for socio-demographics. Living in higher density neighborhoods (B(SE): 9.22 (2.78), p = 0.001) and neighborhoods with more older homes (4.42 (1.85), p = 0.02) were positively associated with adolescent MVPA. Living in neighborhoods with shorter commute times was negatively associated with MVPA (-5.11 (2.34), p = 0.03). Positive associations were found between MVPA and the high density and older homes neighborhood factors, though associations were not consistent across quintiles. In conclusion, living in neighborhoods with walkable attributes was associated with greater adolescent MVPA, though the effects were not distributed equally across nSES. Adolescents living in lower SES neighborhoods may benefit more from physical activity interventions and environmental supports that provide opportunities to be active beyond neighborhood walkability.

Keywords: Adolescents; BMI, body mass index; Built environment; FLASHE Study, Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health, and Eating Study; GED, General Educational Development; MVPA, moderate to vigorous physical activity; NCES, National Center for Education Statistics; NCI, National Cancer Institute; Neighborhood factors; Neighborhood socioeconomic status; PCA, principal component analysis; Physical activity; SE, standard error; SES, socioeconomic status; TEAN, Teen Environment and Neighborhood; Walkability; YAP, Youth Activity Profile; nSES, neighborhood socioeconomic status.