Perceived Neighborhood Environment and Park Use as Mediators of the Effect of Area Socio-Economic Status on Walking Behaviors

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background:

Access to local parks can affect walking levels. Neighborhood environment and park use may influence relationships between neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and walking.

Methods:

Self-report data on perceived park features, neighborhood environment, park use, neighborhood walking and sociodemographics were obtained from a sample of Australian adults, living in high/low SES areas. Surveys were mailed to 250 randomly selected households within 500m of 12 matched parks. Mediating effects of perceived environment attributes and park use on relationships between area-SES and walking were examined.

Results:

Mean frequency of local park use was higher for high-SES residents (4.36 vs 3.16 times/wk, P < .01), who also reported higher levels of park safety, maintenance, attractiveness, opportunities for socialization, and neighborhood crime safety, aesthetics, and traffic safety. Safety and opportunity for socialization were independently positively related to monthly frequency of visits to a local park which, in turn, was positively associated with walking for recreation and total walking. Residents of higher SES areas reported an average 22% (95% CI: 5%, 37%) more weekly minutes of recreational walking than their low SES counterparts.

Conclusion:

Residents of high-SES areas live in environments that promote park use, which positively contributes to their weekly amounts of overall and recreational walking.

Leslie and Kremer are with the School of Psychology, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia. Cerin is with the Institute of Human Performance, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

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