Neighbourhood drivability: environmental and individual characteristics associated with car use across Europe

Nicolette R den Braver, Julia G Kok, Joreintje D Mackenbach, Harry Rutter, Jean-Michel Oppert, Sofie Compernolle, Jos W R Twisk, Johannes Brug, Joline W J Beulens, Jeroen Lakerveld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Car driving is a form of passive transportation associated with higher sedentary behaviour, which is associated with morbidity. The decision to drive a car is likely to be influenced by the 'drivability' of the built environment, but there is lack of scientific evidence regarding the relative contribution of environmental characteristics of car driving in Europe, compared to individual characteristics. This study aimed to determine which neighbourhood- and individual-level characteristics were associated with car driving in adults of five urban areas across Europe. Second, the study aimed to determine the percentage of variance in car driving explained by individual- and neighbourhood-level characteristics.

METHODS: Neighbourhood environment characteristics potentially related to car use were identified from the literature. These characteristics were subsequently assessed using a Google Street View audit and available GIS databases, in 59 administrative residential neighbourhoods in five European urban areas. Car driving (min/week) and individual level characteristics were self-reported by study participants (analytic sample n = 4258). We used linear multilevel regression analyses to assess cross-sectional associations of individual and neighbourhood-level characteristics with weekly minutes of car driving, and assessed explained variance at each level and for the total model.

RESULTS: Higher residential density (β:-2.61, 95%CI: - 4.99; -0.22) and higher land-use mix (β:-3.73, 95%CI: - 5.61; -1.86) were significantly associated with fewer weekly minutes of car driving. At the individual level, higher age (β: 1.47, 95%CI: 0.60; 2.33), male sex (β: 43.2, 95%CI:24.7; 61.7), being employed (β:80.1, 95%CI: 53.6; 106.5) and ≥ 3 person household composition (β: 47.4, 95%CI: 20.6; 74.2) were associated with higher weekly minutes of car driving. Individual and neighbourhood characteristics contributed about equally to explained variance in minutes of weekly car driving, with 2 and 3% respectively, but total explained variance remained low.

CONCLUSIONS: Residential density and land-use mix were neighbourhood characteristics consistently associated with minutes of weekly car driving, besides age, sex, employment and household composition. Although total explained variance was low, both individual- and neighbourhood-level characteristics were similarly important in their associations with car use in five European urban areas. This study suggests that more, higher quality, and longitudinal data are needed to increase our understanding of car use and its effects on determinants of health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)8
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2020

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