Association of neighbourhood residence and preferences with the built environment, work-related travel behaviours, and health implications for employed adults: findings from the URBAN study

Hannah M Badland, Melody Oliver, Robin A Kearns, Suzanne Mavoa, Karen Witten, Mitch J Duncan, G David Batty
Social Science & Medicine 2012, 75 (8): 1469-76
Although the neighbourhoods and health field is well established, the relationships between neighbourhood selection, neighbourhood preference, work-related travel behaviours, and transport infrastructure have not been fully explored. It is likely that understanding these complex relationships more fully will inform urban policy development, and planning for neighbourhoods that support health behaviours. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to identify associations between these variables in a sample of employed adults. Self-reported demographic, work-related transport behaviours, and neighbourhood preference data were collected from 1616 employed adults recruited from 48 neighbourhoods located across four New Zealand cities. Data were collected between April 2008 and September 2010. Neighbourhood built environment measures were generated using geographical information systems. Findings demonstrated that more people preferred to live in urban (more walkable), rather than suburban (less walkable) settings. Those living in more suburban neighbourhoods had significantly longer work commute distances and lower density of public transport stops available within the neighbourhood when compared with those who lived in more urban neighbourhoods. Those preferring a suburban style neighbourhood commuted approximately 1.5 km further to work when compared with participants preferring urban settings. Respondents who preferred a suburban style neighbourhood were less likely to take public or active transport to/from work when compared with those who preferred an urban style setting, regardless of the neighbourhood type in which they resided. Although it is unlikely that constructing more walkable environments will result in work-related travel behaviour change for all, providing additional highly walkable environments will help satisfy the demand for these settings, reinforce positive health behaviours, and support those amenable to change to engage in higher levels of work-related public and active transport.

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