Association between built environments and weight status: evidence from longitudinal data of 9589 Australian children

Publication Name

International Journal of Obesity


Background: No studies appear to examine potential associations between changes in built environments across childhood and the developmental trajectories of child weight status. Objective: Examine the developmental trajectories of child weight status with respect to changes in childhood exposure to the built environments. Methods: This study used data of 9589 children with biennial follow-up (2004–2016), retrieved from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Changes in objectively-measured child weight status (i.e., body mass index-BMI, waist circumference) were investigated in relation to changes in seven built environments (i.e., neighbourhood safety; green space quality; footpaths and street conditions; public transport; shopping facilities; basic services; and local traffic) subjectively reported by caregivers. Group-based discrete trajectory mixture models were used to classify children according to their developmental trajectories of built environments and weight status. Multilevel multinomial logistic regression was employed to examine associations between built environments and child weight status adjusted for confounding. Results: Two, four, and six trajectory groups were developed for built environment variables. Three groups namely “moderate”, “high”, and “extreme increase” were generated for each BMI and waist circumference. Findings from multilevel analyses indicated that growing up in neighbourhoods that are considered highly safe, with better quality of green space nearby, and in areas with low local traffic over time are protective against unhealthy weight increase in childhood. Meanwhile, living with better access to shopping facilities and basic services was associated with an unhealthy increase in BMI and/or waist circumference. No clear associations appeared between the quality of footpath and street conditions, access to public transport, and child weight status. Conclusions: Built environments might act either as a risk or protective factor of an unhealthy increase in child weight status. Enabling health-promoting neighbourhoods (i.e., highly safe, quality green space nearby, low local traffic) is important to support a healthy weight trajectory across childhood.

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Australian Institute of Family Studies



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