Neighborhood Context and Health: Highlighting the Role of a Neighborhood’s Physical Environment
How neighborhood contexts influence individual health has long been of interest to social scientists. A rich literature has established the links between neighborhood characteristics and a variety of health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, chronic conditions, overall health, and psychological wellbeing (e.g., Aneshensel and Sucoff 1996; Kimbro and Denney 2013; Pickett and Pearl 2001; Sampson 2003). These studies have found that living in poor neighborhoods increases the risk for poor health. Partly because they rely on census data to measure neighborhood characteristics, existing work on this topic usually describes how the socio-demographic characteristics of residents or the spatial distribution of residents influence health (Aneshensel and Sucoff 1996; Kimbro and Denney 2013; Sampson 2003). In doing so, these studies frequently ignore whether and how a neighborhood’s physical environment (e.g., walkability, places to be physically active, food environments) shapes individual health.
Using pooled data collected from Google Street View, the 2011 National Household Survey, and the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey, we examine the association between a neighborhood’s physical environment and the risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes for residents of the Greater Toronto Area. Next, we identify individual factors that buffers (or exacerbate) the adverse consequences of living in neighborhoods with poor physical environments. Finally, we determine whether and how residential segregation and neighborhood SES shape the relationship between a neighborhood’s physical environment and individual health.
We will provide a more comprehensive account of how neighborhood contexts influence individual wellbeing and health by pooling innovative data from Google Street View with traditional survey data from the 2011 National Household Survey and the census. It will also provide valuable insights to policy interventions aimed at building socio-cultural facilities and altering the physical environments of a neighborhood as a way to improve the wellbeing of its residents.