The social environment and walking behavior among low-income housing residents.

Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntingon Avenue, Boston, MA 02114, USA. Electronic address: .
Social Science [?] Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.56). 12/2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.11.030
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Walking, both for leisure and for travel/errands, counts toward meeting physical activity recommendations. Both social and physical neighborhood environmental features may encourage or inhibit walking. This study examined social capital, perceived safety, and disorder in relation to walking behavior among a population of low-income housing residents. Social and physical disorder were assessed by systematic social observation in the area surrounding 20 low-income housing sites in greater Boston. A cross-sectional survey of 828 residents of these housing sites provided data on walking behavior, socio-demographics, and individual-level social capital and perceived safety of the areas in and around the housing site. Community social capital and safety were calculated by aggregating individual scores to the level of the housing site. Generalized estimating equations were used to estimate prevalence rate ratios for walking less than 10 min per day for a) travel/errands, b) leisure and c) both travel/errands and leisure. 21.8% of participants walked for travel/errands less than 10 min per day, 34.8% for leisure, and 16.8% for both kinds of walking. In fully adjusted models, those who reported low individual-level social capital and safety also reported less overall walking and less walking for travel/errands. Unexpectedly, those who reported low social disorder also reported less walking for leisure, and those who reported high community social capital also walked less for all outcomes. Physical disorder and community safety were not associated with walking behavior. For low-income housing residents, neighborhood social environmental variables are unlikely the most important factors in determining walking behavior. Researchers should carefully weigh the respective limitations of subjective and objective measures of the social environment when linking them to health outcomes.

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    ABSTRACT: Acculturation may influence health behaviors, yet mechanisms underlying its effect are not well understood. In this study, we describe relationships between acculturation and health behaviors among low-income housing residents, and examine whether these relationships are mediated by social and contextual factors. Residents of 20 low-income housing sites in the Boston metropolitan area completed surveys that assessed acculturative characteristics, social/contextual factors, and health behaviors. A composite acculturation scale was developed using latent class analysis, resulting in four distinct acculturative groups. Path analysis was used to examine interrelationships between acculturation, health behaviors, and social/contextual factors, specifically self-reported social ties, social support, stress, material hardship, and discrimination. Of the 828 respondents, 69% were born outside of the U.S. Less acculturated groups exhibited healthier dietary practices and were less likely to smoke than more acculturated groups. Acculturation had a direct effect on diet and smoking, but not physical activity. Acculturation also showed an indirect effect on diet through its relationship with material hardship. Our finding that material hardship mediated the relationship between acculturation and diet suggests the need to explicate the significant role of financial resources in interventions seeking to promote healthy diets among low-income immigrant groups. Future research should examine these social and contextual mediators using larger, population-based samples, preferably with longitudinal data.
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