Public Rental Housing and Obesogenic Behaviors among Adults in Hong Kong: Mediator Role of Food and Physical Activity Environment

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Mar 3;19(5):2960. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19052960.


Public rental housing (PRH) for low-income families has been shown in several studies to be associated with poor health status and obesity. However, the causes of this health disparity are controversial, and the associations and pathways between PRH and obesogenic behaviors remain unknown. Using cross-sectional survey data of 1977 adults living in Hong Kong (aged or over 18) together with multi-source GIS-based environmental data, we examined the associations between PRH and obesogenic behaviors and the extent to which those associations can be explained by neighborhood food and physical environment. The unhealthy food environment, which relates with infrequent fruit and vegetables consumption, was calculated based on the relative density of fast food restaurants and convenience stores to grocery stores. The physical activity environment, which relates to physical inactivity and prolonged sitting, was assessed in terms of density of sports facilities and street greenery, separately. Regressions and mediation analyses show that PRH was negatively associated with physical inactivity directly and also indirectly via higher sports facilities density; however, PRH was positively associated with unhealthy diet largely directly and positively associated with prolonged sitting indirectly via less street greenery. We advanced the international literature of PRH health impact assessment and its environmental health pathways by providing evidence from the least housing-affordable city in the world. The findings provide planning implications in formulating a healthier PRH community for these low-income PRH households and mitigating health disparities induced by housing type.

Keywords: physical inactivity; prolonged sitting; sports facilities; street greenery; unhealthy diet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Public Housing*
  • Vegetables