Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The influence of neighbourhood environments on adiposity within Australian women

Associate Professor Anna Peeters and Dr Kathryn Backholer have collaborated with researchers from Deakin University to publish a study assessing the relationship between adiposity and educational qualifications and what factors within a neighbourhood environment can illuminate the reason behind the association within women living in Australia.

The relationship between weight gain and socioeconomic factors has been previously addressed with studies indicating that those who are on a lower socioeconomic gradient (such as having lesser income and minimal educational qualifications) are more at risk of having a higher body mass index. Research has illuminated that there may be a correlation between a built neighbourhood environment and increased weight gain, rather than just energy –balance behaviours. 

The researchers make note of a review which identified that neighborhoods which allowed for physical activities and access to supermarkets saw a decreased risk of obesity. The paper also mentions that neighborhoods with fewer resources to promote physical activity may have fewer supermarkets, limiting access to fresh produce and as a result, will have more fast food outlets. Easy access to fast food outlets has been associated with an increased risk of developing obesity.

This paper sought to explore the relationship between socioeconomic position, neighbourhood environment characteristics and an individual’s body mass index. This also led to the intention of identifying the impact of a neighbourhood environment on the association of an individual’s socioeconomic position and body mass index.

The sample for the study included 1,819 women who were aged 18-66 from Melbourne. Participants gave their level of education completed and their body mass index. Also obtained was the participants’ residential neighbourhood built environments via utilisation of a Geographic Information System.

Results from the study determined that participants that did not complete a high school degree had a higher average body mass index. One reasoning for this was living further away from supermarkets and a decreased number of sport centres. The study determines that residential neighbourhood can influence the rates of obesity across different socioeconomic communities. The conclusions made from this study can be adopted to develop further initiatives to reduce rates of obesity by acknowledging the influence of built environment and social inequalities.

The study can be read in full here.

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