A Hierarchy of Sociodemographic and Environmental Correlates of Walking and Obesity

Recent studies have shown a link between built environment and obesity in adults. Individuals appear to be less obese if living in neighborhoods where walking is possible. This study considers the association of built environment with different sociodemographic subgroups to gain an understanding of which environmental improvements will help which populations. Survey data were collected from the SMARTRAQ study. The analysis focused on adults (13,065) aged 25 years or older; both income and education were explored.

Key Findings:

  • Those who lived in dense residential areas were more likely to walk than those in middle- or lower-density neighborhoods. They also walked more if the roads were well connected.
  • Those in the least dense neighborhoods, without an educational degree, were the least likely to walk.
  • For men, in particular, more dense neighborhoods were associated with lower obesity rates as was being non-White.

As expected, this study reveals complex relationships between built environment, body weight and sociodemographic variables. A high-risk group is the less educated, low socio-economic status non-White male. Certain subgroups could be more targeted for interventions as a result of these findings.