Neighborhood Environments and Obesity: Exploring Links to Body Mass and Physical Activity

Jeffrey D. Morenoff, University of Michigan
James S. House, University of Michigan

We assess potential mechanisms through which the social and built environments may be linked to obesity, both directly and indirectly through their affects on physical activity, using data from Chicago neighborhoods. Preliminary findings reveal that neighborhood factors appear to play important roles in predicting both exercise and walking, net of a wide array of individual-level characteristics. People exercise less in neighborhoods in which residents perceive higher levels of crime and disorder, but walk more in such neighborhoods. People walk less in neighborhoods where there is more collective fear of crime. The presence of recreational facilities and/or waterfront in a neighborhood appears to encourage exercise. People who live in more “yuppie” neighborhoods (places with people who have higher levels of education and people in professional managerial jobs, and marked by the absence of children) tend to exercise more, and they tend to walk more in areas with higher population density.

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Presented in Session 162: Neighborhood Effects on Health