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Open Access Research article

Do residents’ perceptions of being well-placed and objective presence of local amenities match? A case study in West Central Scotland, UK

Laura Macdonald1*, Ade Kearns2 and Anne Ellaway1

Author Affiliations

1 CSO/MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RZ, UK

2 Department of Urban Studies, University of Glasgow, 25 Bute Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RS, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:454  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-454

Published: 7 May 2013



Recently there has been growing interest in how neighbourhood features, such as the provision of local facilities and amenities, influence residents’ health and well-being. Prior research has measured amenity provision through subjective measures (surveying residents’ perceptions) or objective (GIS mapping of distance) methods. The latter may provide a more accurate measure of physical access, but residents may not use local amenities if they do not perceive them as ‘local’. We believe both subjective and objective measures should be explored, and use West Central Scotland data to investigate correspondence between residents’ subjective assessments of how well-placed they are for everyday amenities (food stores, primary and secondary schools, libraries, pharmacies, public recreation), and objective GIS-modelled measures, and examine correspondence by various sub-groups.


ArcMap was used to map the postal locations of ‘Transport, Health and Well-being 2010 Study’ respondents (n = 1760), and the six amenities, and the presence/absence of each of them within various straight-line and network buffers around respondents’ homes was recorded. SPSS was used to investigate whether objective presence of an amenity within a specified buffer was perceived by a respondent as being well-placed for that amenity. Kappa statistics were used to test agreement between measures for all respondents, and by sex, age, social class, area deprivation, car ownership, dog ownership, walking in the local area, and years lived in current home.


In general, there was poor agreement (Kappa <0.20) between perceptions of being well-placed for each facility and objective presence, within 800 m and 1000 m straight-line and network buffers, with the exception of pharmacies (at 1000 m straight-line) (Kappa: 0.21). Results varied between respondent sub-groups, with some showing better agreement than others. Amongst sub-groups, at 800 m straight-line buffers, the highest correspondence between subjective and objective measures was for pharmacies and primary schools, and at 1000 m, for pharmacies, primary schools and libraries. For road network buffers under 1000 m, agreement was generally poor.


Respondents did not necessarily regard themselves as well-placed for specific amenities when these amenities were present within specified boundaries around their homes, with some exceptions; the picture is not clear-cut with varying findings between different amenities, buffers, and sub-groups.

GIS; Local amenities; Built environment; Perceptions; Proximity; Neighbourhood