Open Access Research article

Neighborhood walkability and cardiometabolic risk factors in australian adults: an observational study

Falk Müller-Riemenschneider12*, Gavin Pereira34, Karen Villanueva4, Hayley Christian4, Matthew Knuiman5, Billie Giles-Corti6 and Fiona C Bull4

Author Affiliations

1 Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and Department of Medicine, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Block MD3, 16 Medical Drive, Singapore 117597, Singapore

2 Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics - Charité University Medical Centre Berlin, Luisenstrasse 57, 10117 Berlin, Germany

3 Yale School of Public Health, Center for Perinatal, Pediatric and Environmental Epidemiology, Yale University, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520-8034, USA

4 Centre for the Built Environment and Health, School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

5 School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

6 McCaughey Centre, VicHealth Centre for Community Welbeing, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Level 5, 207 Bouverie Street, Victoria 3010, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:755  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-755

Published: 15 August 2013



Studies repeatedly highlight associations between the built environment and physical activity, particularly walking. Fewer studies have examined associations with cardiometabolic risk factors, with associations with obesity inconsistent and scarce evidence examining associations with other cardiometabolic risk factors. We aim to investigate the association between neighborhood walkability and the prevalence of obesity, hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, and type-2 diabetes mellitus.


Cross-sectional study of 5,970 adults in Western Australia. Walkability was measured objectively for a 1,600 m and 800 m neighborhood buffer. Logistic regression was used to assess associations overall and by sex, adjusting for socio-demographic factors. Mediation by physical activity and sedentary behavior was investigated.


Individuals living in high compared with less walkable areas were less likely to be obese (1,600 m OR: 0.84, 95% CI: 0.7 to 1; 800 m OR: 0.75, 95% CI: 0.62 to 0.9) and had lower odds of type-2 diabetes mellitus at the 800 m buffer (800 m OR: 0.69, 95% CI: 0.51 to 0.93). There was little evidence for an association between walkability and hypertension or hypercholesterolaemia. The only significant evidence of any difference in the associations in men and women was a stronger association with type-2 diabetes mellitus at the 800 m buffer in men. Associations with obesity and diabetes attenuated when additionally adjusting for physical activity and sedentary behavior but the overall association with obesity remained significant at the 800 m buffer (800 m OR: 0.78, 95% CI: 0.64 to 0.96).


A protective association between neighborhood walkability and obesity was observed. Neighborhood walkability may also be protective of type-2 diabetes mellitus, particularly in men. No association with hypertension or hypercholesterolaemia was found. This warrants further investigation. Findings contribute towards the accumulating evidence that city planning and policy related strategies aimed at creating supportive environments could play an important role in the prevention of chronic diseases.

Built environment; Walkability; Cardiometabolic risk factors