Linking perceptions of neighbourhood to health in Hamilton, Canada
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STUDY OBJECTIVE: To investigate the association between perceptions of neighbourhood physical and social characteristics and three health outcomes (self assessed health status, chronic conditions, and emotional distress). DESIGN: Cross sectional survey data analysed in small neighbourhoods. SETTING: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, a medium sized industrial city, located at the western end of Lake Ontario (population at the time of the study about 380 000). PARTICIPANTS: Random sample of 1504 adults aged 18 years and older residing in four contrasting neighbourhoods. MAIN RESULTS: Significant differences across the four neighbourhoods are apparent in self assessed health status and emotional distress, but not in chronic conditions. Neighbourhoods with lower SES reported poorer health and more emotional distress. Perceptions of the physical environment dominated social concerns in all neighbourhoods. For all three health outcomes, individual risk factors followed expectations, with measures of poverty, age, and lifestyle all significantly associated with poor health outcomes. Physical environmental problems were positively and significantly associated with poor physical and emotional health. Specifically, people reporting they dislike aspects of their neighbourhood's physical environment are 1.5 times more likely to report chronic health conditions (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.19 to 2.05), while those reporting physical likes with their neighbourhood are less likely to report fair/poor health (OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.90) or emotional distress (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.26 to 0.80). CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate the importance of neighbourhood perceptions as a determinant of health, as well as conventional factors such as low income, lifestyle, and age. The dominance of physical environmental concerns may have arisen from the industrial nature of Hamilton, but this result merits further investigation.
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