Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 253–264 | Cite as

Do Relationships Between Environmental Attributes and Recreational Walking Vary According to Area-Level Socioeconomic Status?

  • Takemi SugiyamaEmail author
  • Natasha J. Howard
  • Catherine Paquet
  • Neil T. Coffee
  • Anne W. Taylor
  • Mark Daniel


Residents of areas with lower socioeconomic status (SES) are known to be less physically active during leisure time. Neighborhood walkability has been shown to be related to recreational walking equally in low and high SES areas. This cross-sectional study tested whether associations of specific environmental attributes, measured objectively and subjectively, with walking for recreation were moderated by area-level SES. The data of the North West Adelaide Health Study collected in 2007 (n = 1500, mean age 57) were used. Self-reported walking frequency was the outcome of the study. Environmental exposure measures included objectively measured walkability components (residential density, intersection density, land use mix, and net retail area ratio) and perceived attributes (access to destinations, neighborhood esthetics, walking infrastructure, traffic/barriers, and crime safety). Participants’ suburbs were categorized into low and high SES areas using an indicator of socioeconomic disadvantage. Low SES areas had lower scores in residential density, neighborhood esthetics, walking infrastructure, traffic/barriers, and crime safety. Recreational walking was associated with residential density, access to destinations, esthetics, traffic/barriers, and crime safety. Effect modification was observed for two attributes (out of nine): residential density was associated with walking only in low SES areas, while walking infrastructure was associated with walking only in high SES areas. The associations of neighborhood environmental attributes with recreational walking were largely consistent across SES groups. However, low SES areas were disadvantaged in most perceived environmental attributes related to recreational walking. Improving such attributes in low SES neighborhoods may help close socioeconomic disparities in leisure time physical activity.


Physical activity Neighborhood environment Walkability Inequality Effect modification 



The Spatial Epidemiology and Evaluation Research Group at the University of South Australia in collaboration with the South Australian Department of Health and Ageing conducted the Place and Metabolic Syndrome (PAMS) project under National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Project Grants (#631917, #570150). Catherine Paquet was funded by NHMRC Post-doctoral Training Research Fellowship (#570139). This manuscript has been reviewed for scientific content and consistency of data interpretation by Chief Investigators of the North West Adelaide Health Study. The authors are grateful for the interest and commitment of cohort participants, as well as the contributions of research support staff involved in recruitment and data collection.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takemi Sugiyama
    • 1
    Email author
  • Natasha J. Howard
    • 1
  • Catherine Paquet
    • 1
    • 2
  • Neil T. Coffee
    • 1
  • Anne W. Taylor
    • 3
  • Mark Daniel
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Spatial Epidemiology and Evaluation Research Group, Sansom Institute for Health Research & School of Population HealthUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Research Centre of the Douglas Mental Health University InstituteVerdunCanada
  3. 3.Discipline of MedicineThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Medicine, St. Vincent’s HospitalThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.South Australian Health & Medical Research InstituteAdelaideAustralia

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