Residential proximity to urban centres, local-area walkability and change in waist circumference among Australian adults

Takemi Sugiyama, Theo Niyonsenga, Natasha J. Howard, Neil T. Coffee, Catherine Paquet, Anne W. Taylor, Mark Daniel

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Consistent associations have been observed between macro-level urban sprawl and overweight/obesity, but whether residential proximity to urban centres predicts adiposity change over time has not been established. Further, studies of local-area walkability and overweight/obesity have generated mixed results. This study examined 4-year change in adults' waist circumference in relation to proximity to city centre, proximity to closest suburban centre, and local-area walkability. Data were from adult participants (n = 2080) of a cohort study on chronic conditions and health risk factors in Adelaide, Australia. Baseline data were collected in 2000–03 with a follow-up in 2005–06. Multilevel regression models examined in 2015 the independent and joint associations of the three environmental measures with change in waist circumference, accounting for socio-demographic covariates. On average, waist circumference rose by 1.8 cm over approximately 4 years. Greater distance to city centre was associated with a greater increase in waist circumference. Participants living in distal areas (20 km or further from city centre) had a greater increase in waist circumference (mean increase: 2.4 cm) compared to those in proximal areas (9 km or less, mean increase: 1.2 cm). Counterintuitively, living in the vicinity of a suburban centre was associated with a greater increase in adiposity. Local-area walkability was not significantly associated with the outcome. Residential proximity to city centre appears to be protective against excessive increases in waist circumference. Controlled development and targeted interventions in the urban fringe may be needed to tackle obesity. Additional research needs to assess behaviours that mediate relationships between sprawl and obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive Medicine
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Dec 2016


  • Central adiposity
  • Environment
  • Longitudinal study
  • Sprawl
  • Urban planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology

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