Are perceptions of the local environment related to neighbourhood satisfaction and mental health in adults?

Eva Leslie, Ester Cerin
Preventive Medicine 2008, 47 (3): 273-8

BACKGROUND: Perceptions of environmental attributes can influence satisfaction with where people live and mental health status. We examined the association between perceived environmental characteristics, neighbourhood satisfaction, and self-rated mental health.

METHODS: We report cross-sectional data from the Physical Activity in Localities and Community Environments (PLACE) study in Australia (n=2194). Self-report data included socio-demographics, perceived attributes of the environment, neighbourhood satisfaction (NS) and mental health status. Neighbourhood SES was obtained through census data. Factor analysis was used to identify dimensions of NS. Generalized linear models were used to examine associations between NS and perceived environment characteristics and whether aspects of NS were independently associated with mental health.

RESULTS: NS factors identified were safety and walkability, access to destinations, social network, travel network, and traffic and noise. Perceived environmental characteristics of aesthetics and greenery, land use mix--diversity, street connectivity, traffic safety, infrastructure for walking, access to services and barriers to walking were found to be positively associated with these factors. Traffic load and crime were negatively associated. Three NS factors (safety and walkability, social network, and traffic and noise) were independent predictors of mental health.

CONCLUSIONS: Neighbourhood satisfaction may mediate the association between perceived environmental characteristics and measures of mental health in adults.

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