Neighborhood Walkability, Neighborhood Social Health, and Self-Selection Among U.S. Adults
Published in: Health & Place, Volume 82 (July 2023). doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2023.103036
Posted on RAND.org on June 22, 2023
Neighborhood walkability is favorably related to multiple physical health outcomes, but associations with social health are less clear. Present analyses examined how neighborhood walkability was related to neighborhood social health and explored the potential confounding role of neighborhood self-selection.
Cross-sectional data were analyzed for 1745 adults, ages 20-66, recruited from two US regions. We created a walkability index around each participant's home (1 km street network buffer) based on residential density, street intersection density, mixed land use, and retail floor area ratio. Neighborhood social health outcomes included reported social interactions with neighbors and sense of community. Two mixed model regressions were conducted for each outcome, with and without adjusting for walkability-related reasons for moving to the neighborhood (self-selection). Covariates included sex, age, socioeconomic status, white/nonwhite race/ethnicity, marital status, and time living in the neighborhood.
Neighborhood walkability was positively related to social interactions with neighbors, both without (b=0.13, p<.001) and with adjustment for self-selection (b=0.09, p=.008). Neighborhood walkability was positively associated with sense of community, but only before adjusting for self-selection (b=0.02, p=.009).
Neighborhood walkability may promote specific aspects of neighborhood social health, which together are beneficial for physical and mental health. These findings provide additional impetus for enhancing walkability of US communities.