Socioeconomic status differences in recreational physical activity levels and real and perceived access to a supportive physical environment

Billie Giles-Corti, Robert J Donovan
Preventive Medicine 2002, 35 (6): 601-11

BACKGROUND: Spatial access to recreational facilities and perceptions of the neighborhood environment and physical activity levels were examined by the socioeconomic status of area of residence (SES).

METHODS: A cross-sectional survey of adults (18-59 years) (n = 1,803) stratified by SES using a geographic-based index was conducted.

RESULTS: Respondents in low SES areas had superior spatial access to many recreational facilities, but were less likely to use them compared with those living in high SES areas. They were more likely to perceive that they had access to sidewalks and shops, but also perceived that their neighborhood was busier with traffic, less attractive, and less supportive of walking. After adjustment, respondents living in low SES areas were 36% less likely to undertake vigorous activity. While they were more likely to walk for transport, this was not statistically significant (OR, 1.27; 95% CI, 0.98-1.64), nor were other SES differences in walking for recreation and walking as recommended. Modifiable environmental factors were associated with walking and vigorous activity, especially perceived access to sidewalks and neighborhood attractiveness. Spatial access to attractive, public open space was associated with walking.

CONCLUSIONS: Creating supportive environments--particularly sidewalks in attractive neighborhoods--has the potential to increase walking and vigorous activity.

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