The built environment, neighborhood crime and constrained physical activity: an exploration of inconsistent findings. Prev Med, 47, 241-251

School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia.
Preventive Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.09). 05/2008; 47(3):241-51. DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2008.03.017
Source: PubMed


Personal safety is commonly cited in qualitative research as a barrier to local walking, yet the relationship between safety and constrained physical activity has received mixed support in quantitative studies. This paper reviews the quantitative evidence to date, seeking to explain the inconsistencies, and offers recommendations for future research.
A social-ecological framework was adopted to explore the evidence linking crime-related safety, and factors that influence real and perceived safety, with constrained physical activity.
Perceived safety tends to affect the physical activity of groups already known to exhibit greater anxiety about crime; and some elements of the built environment that influence safety appear to constrain physical activity. However the evidence is somewhat inconsistent, and this may be partly attributed to measurement limitations. Many studies employ generic safety measures that make implicit references to crime or use composite variables that lack specificity. Physical activity outcomes also require consideration, as only activities occurring locally outdoors are likely to be affected by neighborhood crime.
Further research is required to tease out associations between real and perceived crime-related safety and physical activity, ideally employing behaviour and crime-specific measures, and addressing the moderating role of the social and built environments.

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    • "age, sex, ethnic minorities, personal experiences), social and environmental factors (e.g. physical environment, social environment, policy environment) (Foster and Giles-Corti, 2008). Inspired by Giles-Corti et al. (2005), Foster and Giles-Corti (2008), Foster et al. (2010) and Foster et al. (2013), the following specific socio-ecological framework adapted in this study was developed by Sreetheran and Van den Bosch (2014) as a general framework for understanding how personal attributes, as well as environmental and social attributes and their interactions evoke fear of crime in the urban green spaces (see Fig. 1). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study was conducted to determine the attributes which evoke 'fear of crime' and to determine the defensive behaviour among the urban park users. Findings are based on qualitative studies undertaken in the city of Kuala Lumpur among the park and non-park users (N=19) by means of semi-structured in-depth interviews. The interview consists of respondents from various age, gender and race. The results revealed universal similarities to other cultures on fear of crime in urban green spaces. This study has highlighted eight themes on the attributes which evoke fear among the residents of Kuala Lumpur in their urban parks; concealment (vegetation), being alone, signs of physical disorder, presence of social incivilities, familiarity, prior information about crime and previous crime experience. This study also found that among the residents of Kuala Lumpur there is some form of defensive behaviour towards crime in urban parks but this is was only observed among the women. This paper has also highlighted the implications on park planning and management from the comments given by the respondents. Tough the aspect of fear towards crime in urban green spaces is not a major focus in Malaysia, but this study illustrates the need to initiatives related to urban parks management to ensure a better sense of security among users.
    Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 06/2015; 14(3):702-713. DOI:10.1016/j.ufug.2015.05.012 · 2.11 Impact Factor
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    • "In research, environmental characteristics are often broadly categorized as physical or social. From an urban planning perspective, the physical environment refers to the aspects such as building design, land use mix, and residential density (Foster and Giles-Corti, 2008). Yet from a sociological point of view, the former includes " the groups to which we belong, the neighborhoods in which we live, the organization of our workplaces, and the policies we create to order our lives " (Yen and Syme, 1999, p.287). "
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    ABSTRACT: Changes in the neighborhood environment may explain part of the rapid increase in childhood overweight and obesity during the last decades. To date few theory-driven rather than data-driven studies have explored longitudinal associations between multiple neighborhood characteristics and child body weight development. We aimed to assess the relationship between physical, social and perceived safety related characteristics of the neighborhood and Body Mass Index (BMI) development in children during early school age, using a longitudinal design. We included an examination of moderating and confounding factors based on a conceptual model adapted from the EnRG framework (Environmental Research framework for weight Gain prevention) and empirical research. Analyses included 1887 children from the KOALA Birth Cohort Study followed from baseline age 4-5 years until 8-9 years. For children age 4-5 years, parents completed a questionnaire measuring characteristics of the neighborhood. Reliability and factor analyses were used to identify constructs for neighborhood characteristics. Linear regression analysis was performed to assess the relationship between neighborhood constructs and BMI z-scores cross-sectionally at age 4-5 years and longitudinally using Generalized Estimating Equations with BMI z-scores over 5 repeated measurements until age 8-9 years. Fourteen constructs were identified and grouped in three domains including perceived physical, social, or safety related characteristics of the neighborhood. Cross-sectionally, a lower BMI z-score was associated with higher perceived physical attractiveness of the neighborhood environment (standardized regression coefficient (β) -0.078, 95% CI -0.123 to -0.034) and a higher level of social capital (β -0.142, -0.264 to -0.019). Longitudinally, similar associations were observed with potentially even stronger regression coefficients. This study suggests that BMI in children is mainly related to the modifiable physical and social environment of the conceptual model and not related to safety as perceived by parents. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Social Science [?] Medicine 04/2015; 135:99-108. DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.04.018 · 2.89 Impact Factor
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    • "In the current review, crime- and traffic-related safety emerged as multidimensional constructs, including physical as well as social components. This supports previous calls [56,57] for more comprehensive measures to assess perceived crime- and traffic-related safety. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background While physical activity (PA) provides many physical, social, and mental health benefits for older adults, they are the least physically active age group. Ecological models highlight the importance of the physical environment in promoting PA. However, results of previous quantitative research revealed inconsistencies in environmental correlates of older adults’ PA that may be explained by methodological issues. Qualitative studies can inform and complement quantitative research on environment-PA relationships by providing insight into how and why the environment influences participants’ PA behaviors. The current study aimed to provide a systematic review of qualitative studies exploring the potential impact of the physical environment on older adults’ PA behaviors. Methods A systematic search was conducted in databases of various disciplines, including: health, architecture and urban planning, transportation, and interdisciplinary databases. From 3,047 articles identified in the physical activity, initial search, 31 articles published from 1996 to 2012 met all inclusion criteria. An inductive content analysis was performed on the extracted findings to identify emerging environmental elements related to older adults’ PA. The identified environmental elements were then grouped by study methodologies [indoor interviews (individual or focus groups) vs spatial methods (photo-voice, observations, walk-along interviews)]. Results This review provides detailed information about environmental factors that potentially influence older adults’ PA behaviors. These factors were categorized into five themes: pedestrian infrastructure, safety, access to amenities, aesthetics, and environmental conditions. Environmental factors especially relevant to older adults (i.e., access to facilities, green open spaces and rest areas) tended to emerge more frequently in studies that combined interviews with spatial qualitative methods. Conclusions Findings showed that qualitative research can provide in-depth information on environmental elements that influence older adults’ PA. Future qualitative studies on the physical environment and older adults’ PA would benefit from combining interviews with more spatially-oriented methods. Multidisciplinary mixed-methods studies are recommended to establish quantitative relationships complemented with in-depth qualitative information.
    International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 07/2014; 11(1):79. DOI:10.1186/1479-5868-11-79 · 4.11 Impact Factor
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