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From urban neighbourhood environments to cognitive health: a cross-sectional analysis of the role of physical activity and sedentary behaviours


Cerin, E and Barnett, A and Shaw, JE and Martino, E and Knibbs, LD and Tham, R and Wheeler, AJ and Anstey, KJ, From urban neighbourhood environments to cognitive health: a cross-sectional analysis of the role of physical activity and sedentary behaviours, BMC Public Health, 21, (1) Article 2320. ISSN 1471-2458 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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© 2021 The Author(s). Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1186/s12889-021-12375-3


Background: There is a dearth of studies on the effects of the neighbourhood environment on adultsí cognitive function. We examined how interrelated aspects of the built and natural neighbourhood environment, including air pollution, correlate with adultsí cognitive function, and the roles of physical activity and sedentary behaviours in these associations.

Methods: We used data from 4,141 adult urban dwellers who participated in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle 3 study on socio-demographic characteristics, neighbourhood self-selection, physical activity and sedentary behaviours, and cognitive function. Neighbourhood environmental characteristics included population density, intersection density, non-commercial land use mix, and percentages of commercial land, parkland and blue space, all within 1 km residential buffers. We also calculated annual mean concentrations of NO2 and PM2.5. Generalised additive mixed models informed by directed acyclic graphs were used to estimate the total, direct and indirect effects of environmental attributes on cognitive functions and the joint-significance test was used to examine indirect effects via behaviours.

Results: In the total effects models, population density and percentage of parkland were positively associated with cognitive function. A positive association of PM2.5 with memory was also observed. All neighbourhood environmental attributes were directly and/or indirectly related to cognitive functions via other environmental attributes and/or physical activity but not sedentary behaviours. Engagement in transportation walking and gardening frequency partially mediated the positive effects of the neighbourhood environment on cognitive function, while frequency of transportation walking mediated the negative effects.

Conclusions: In the context of a low-density country like Australia, denser urban environments with access to parkland may benefit residentsí cognitive health by providing opportunities for participation in a diversity of activities. A more fine-grained characterisation of the neighbourhood environment may be necessary to tease out the negative and positive impacts of inter-related characteristics of urban neighbourhood environments on cognitive function.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:walkability, greenspace, blue space, physical activity, sedentary behaviours, cognitive function
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Epidemiology
Research Field:Social epidemiology
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Evaluation of health and support services
Objective Field:Determinants of health
UTAS Author:Wheeler, AJ (Dr Amanda Wheeler)
ID Code:151732
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2022-08-04
Last Modified:2022-09-08
Downloads:6 View Download Statistics

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