Associations Between Neighborhood Safety, Availability of Recreational Facilities, and Adolescent Physical Activity Among Canadian Youth

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

The safety of neighborhoods and availability of parks and facilities may influence adolescent physical activity independently or interactively.

Methods:

9114 Canadians in grades 6 to 10 completed the 2006 Health Behavior in School-Aged Children Survey. The outcome of interest was students’ self-reported participation in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity outside of school. A composite scale based on questions measuring student perceptions of safety was used to capture individual perceptions of safety. In addition, schools were grouped into quintiles based on the mean of the perceived safety scale, used as a proxy for peer perceptions. The number of parks and recreational facilities within 5 km of schools was abstracted from a geographical information system.

Results:

Moderate gradients in physical activity were observed according to individual and group perceptions of safety. Boys and girls with the highest perceptions of safety were 1.31 (95% CI: 1.17−1.45) and 1.45 (1.26−1.65) times more likely to be physically active, respectively, than those with the lowest perceptions. Compared with those who perceived the neighborhood as least safe, elementary students in higher quintiles were 1.31, 1.39, 1.37, and 1.56 times more likely to be physically active (Ptrend = 0.012). Increased numbers of recreational features were not related to physical activity irrespective of neighborhood safety.

Conclusions:

Individual and group perceptions of neighborhood safety were modestly associated with adolescents’ physical activity.

The authors are with the Dept of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.