Physical environmental attributes and active transportation in Belgium: what about adults and adolescents living in the same neighborhoods?

Delfien Van Dyck, Femke De Meester, Greet Cardon, Benedicte Deforche, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij
American Journal of Health Promotion: AJHP 2013, 27 (5): 330-8

PURPOSE: To examine if adults and adolescents living in the same high- and low-walkable neighborhoods have different environmental perceptions and if this is reflected in distinct associations between environmental perceptions and active transportation.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study with observational design.

SETTING: In Ghent, 24 neighborhoods were selected, stratified on objectively assessed walkability, and matched on neighborhood income. This resulted in four walkability/income quadrants, each consisting of six neighborhoods.

SUBJECTS: Living in the 24 neighborhoods were 1166 adults (20-65 years, 52.1% women) and 477 adolescents (13-15 years, 49.7% girls).

MEASURES: All participants completed a sociodemographic questionnaire, the International (adults) or Flemish (adolescents) Physical Activity Questionnaire and the Neighborhood Environmental Walkability Scale.

ANALYSIS: Multilevel (two-level: participant-neighborhood) moderated regression models, using MLwiN 2.23.

RESULTS: Both adults and adolescents living in objectively high-walkable neighborhoods perceived their environment as more activity friendly than their low-walkable neighborhoods counterparts (11 out of 13 main effects walkability: p < .05). However, perceived residential density (p < .05), land use mix (p < .01), safety for cycling (p < .05), and perceived walkability (p < .001) were associated with active transportation only in adults.

CONCLUSION: Different environmental intervention strategies are probably needed to increase active transportation in Belgian adults and adolescents living in the same neighborhoods. In adults, changing objective or perceived environmental characteristics might be effective, whereas in adolescents, the current environmental focus should be changed towards multidimensional research.

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