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Influence of built environment and transportation access on body mass index of older adults: Survey results from Erie County, New York


  • Hess, Daniel Baldwin
  • Russell, Jessica Kozlowski


Recent empirical research about the influence of built environments on individual health behaviors and health conditions focuses on people of all ages or youth subgroups (such as children and adolescents) but infrequently on older adults. To address the gap, the impact of built environment characteristics—such as population density, land use arrangements, and access to public transit—on body mass index (BMI) is assessed for 207 older adults (age 50 and older) in Erie County, New York. A particular focus of inquiry is how frequency of driving and access to public transportation—and the degree to which various urban forms provide support for these mode choices—relate to BMI for older adults. Socio-demographic data and information about individuals' health is collected using a random survey of older adults; data about the built environment is calculated for the surroundings of each respondent's home using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Results from ordinary least squares regression models suggest that BMI of older adults may be more influenced by personal characteristics—age, sex, physical functionality—and neighborhood socioeconomic factors—share of population within the respondents' census tract that is white, and median household income—than by neighborhood land use and frequency of driving. Access to public transportation—measured by the density of nearby bus stops—exhibits an inverse and statistically significant relationship with BMI among older adults, suggesting that transportation access may play a greater role in the overall activity levels and BMI of older adults.

Suggested Citation

  • Hess, Daniel Baldwin & Russell, Jessica Kozlowski, 2012. "Influence of built environment and transportation access on body mass index of older adults: Survey results from Erie County, New York," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(C), pages 128-137.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:20:y:2012:i:c:p:128-137 DOI: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2012.01.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Su, Fengming & Bell, Michael G.H., 2009. "Transport for older people: Characteristics and solutions," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 46-55.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hu, Hsi-Hwa & Cho, Joongkoo & Huang, Guoxiong & Wen, Frank & Choi, Simon & Shih, Margaret & Lightstone, Amy S., 2014. "Neighborhood environment and health behavior in Los Angeles area," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 40-47.
    2. Hess, Daniel Baldwin & Norton, J. Travis & Park, JiYoung & Street, Debra A., 2016. "Driving decisions of older adults receiving meal delivery: The influence of individual characteristics, the built environment, and neighborhood familiarity," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 73-85.
    3. repec:eee:trapol:v:59:y:2017:i:c:p:174-180 is not listed on IDEAS


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