Do the Walkability and Urban Leisure Amenities of Neighborhoods Affect the Body Mass Index of Individuals? Based on a Case Study in Seoul, South Korea.

This study investigates the impact of neighborhood-built environments on obesity in interrelationship with socioeconomic status (SES)-controlling for dietary patterns and physical activities of residents-using structural equation modeling (SEM). A total of 577 samples who are between 19 and 64 years old and reside in Seoul are extracted from Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHNES), 2015. Neighborhood environments are represented as the two latent constructs-walkability and leisure amenities-composited with indicators such as density of intersections, density of mixed-use area, and the area of open spaces and are aggregated by jurisdictional unit in Seoul. We found that greater walkability in a neighborhood explained a lower body mass index (BMI) among residents, whereas more urban leisure amenities in a neighborhood explained a higher BMI. The finding suggests that a walking-friendly environment is more effective than active recreational amenities in inducing people to engage in daily physical activities to the level that reduces obesity rate. SES exerted a negative impact on BMI of a greater magnitude than the impact of either of the environmental living conditions, reinforcing the importance of general wealth and education level in leading to a healthy lifestyle. Our research contributes to growing evidence of a relationship between obesity and the built environment in the context of Asian countries where the prevalence of obesity is becoming a serious issue and requires immediate attention.

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