Longitudinal association between change in the neighbourhood built environment and the wellbeing of local residents in deprived areas: an observational study

Louise Foley, Emma Coombes, Dan Hayman, David Humphreys, Andrew Jones, Richard Mitchell, David Ogilvie

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Background: Features of the urban neighbourhood influence the physical, social and mental wellbeing of residents and communities. We explored the longitudinal association between change to the neighbourhood built environment and the wellbeing of local residents in deprived areas of Glasgow, Scotland.

Methods: A cohort of residents (n = 365; mean age 50 years; 44% male; 4.1% of the 9000 mailed surveys at baseline) responded to a postal survey in 2005 and 2013. Wellbeing was assessed with the mental (MCS-8) and physical (PCS-8) components of the SF-8 scale. We developed software to aid identification of visible changes in satellite imagery occurring over time. We then used a Geographical Information System to calculate the percentage change in the built environment occurring within an 800 m buffer of each participant’s home.

Results: The median change in the neighbourhood built environment was 3% (interquartile range 6%). In the whole sample, physical wellbeing declined by 1.5 units on average, and mental wellbeing increased by 0.9 units, over time. In multivariable linear regression analyses, participants living in neighbourhoods with a greater amount of change in the built environment (unit change = 1%) experienced significantly reduced physical (PCS-8: -0.13, 95% CI -0.26 to 0.00) and mental (MCS-8: -0.16, 95% CI -0.31 to − 0.02) wellbeing over time compared to those living in neighbourhoods with less change. For mental wellbeing, a significant interaction by baseline perception of financial strain indicated a larger reduction in those experiencing greater financial strain (MCS-8: -0.22, 95% CI -0.39 to − 0.06). However, this relationship was reversed in those experiencing lower financial strain, whereby living in neighbourhoods with a greater amount of change was associated with significantly improved mental wellbeing over time (MCS-8: 0.38, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.72).

Conclusions: Overall, we found some evidence that living in neighbourhoods experiencing higher levels of physical change worsened wellbeing in local residents. However, we found a stronger negative relationship in those with lower financial security and a positive relationship in those with higher financial security. This is one of few studies exploring the longitudinal relationship between the environment and health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number545
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2018


  • Built environment
  • Neighbourhood
  • Wellbeing
  • Natural experimental study

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