Feelings of safety during daytime walking: associations with mental health, physical activity and cardiometabolic health in high vacancy, low-income neighborhoods in Detroit, Michigan

Amber L. Pearson, Kimberly A. Clevenger, Teresa H. Horton, Joseph C. Gardiner, Ventra Asana, Benjamin V. Dougherty, Karin A. Pfeiffer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: Individuals living in low-income neighborhoods have disproportionately high rates of obesity, Type-2 diabetes, and cardiometabolic conditions. Perceived safety in one’s neighborhood may influence stress and physical activity, with cascading effects on cardiometabolic health. Methods: In this study, we examined relationships among feelings of safety while walking during the day and mental health [perceived stress (PSS), depression score], moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (PA), Body Mass Index (BMI), and hemoglobin A1C (A1C) in low-income, high-vacancy neighborhoods in Detroit, Michigan. We recruited 69 adults who wore accelerometers for one week and completed a survey on demographics, mental health, and neighborhood perceptions. Anthropometrics were collected and A1C was measured using A1CNow test strips. We compiled spatial data on vacant buildings and lots across the city. We fitted conventional and multilevel regression models to predict each outcome, using perceived safety during daytime walking as the independent variable of interest and individual or both individual and neighborhood-level covariates (e.g., number of vacant lots). Last, we examined trends in neighborhood features according to perceived safety. Results: In this predominantly African American sample (91%), 47% felt unsafe during daytime walking. Feelings of perceived safety significantly predicted PSS (β = − 2.34, p = 0.017), depression scores (β = − 4.22, p = 0.006), and BMI (β = − 2.87, p = 0.01), after full adjustment. For PA, we detected a significant association for sex only. For A1C we detected significant associations with blighted lots near the home. Those feeling unsafe lived in neighborhoods with higher park area and number of blighted lots. Conclusion: Future research is needed to assess a critical pathway through which neighborhood features, including vacant or poor-quality green spaces, may affect obesity—via stress reduction and concomitant effects on cardiometabolic health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Crime
  • Ethnic minority
  • Green space
  • Inequality
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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