The relationship of built environment to health-related behaviors and health outcomes in elderly community residents in a middle income country

Sergio L. Blay(1*)Amy J. Schulz(2)Graciela Mentz(3)


Background. Few studies have examined the impact of the built environment (BE) on health behaviours and health outcomes in middle income countries. This study examines associations between self-assessed characteristics of the home and neighbourhood environment and health-related behaviours and health outcomes in an elderly population in Brazil.
Design and methods. In a community sample of 6963 community dwellers 60 years old and older living in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, associations between self-reported BE conditions and health behaviours and health outcomes were assessed using a structured questionnaire. Multivariate analysis was conducted to investigate these associations while accounting for other relevant characteristics.
Results. We found significant positive associations between adverse BE conditions and pulmonary, urinary conditions, gastrointestinal, problems, headache and depression. There were mixed associations between adverse BE conditions and musculoskeletal and sensory conditions, inverse associations with metabolic disorders. and no associations with dermatologic problems and cancer. After accounting for health related behaviours, results suggest a modest association between adverse BE conditions and hypertension, with no significant associations with other indicators of cardiovascular conditions (heart problems, stroke, varicose veins).
Conclusions. The findings in this study suggest links between adverse conditions in the BE and health related behaviours in the hypothesized direction. Associations with the health conditions examined here are mixed. We find the strongest evidence for effects of adverse BE conditions for pulmonary and infectious conditions. Significant associations between the adverse BE indicators and health outcomes persist after accounting for health related behaviours, suggesting that BE conditions are linked to health pathways above and beyond the health related behaviours assessed in this study.