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Logo of jepicomhInstructions for authorsCurrent TOCJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
J Epidemiol Community Health. Dec 2002; 56(12): 913–918.
PMCID: PMC1756988

Urban residential environments and senior citizens' longevity in megacity areas: the importance of walkable green spaces

Abstract

Study objectives: To study the association between greenery filled public areas that are nearby a residence and easy to walk in and the longevity of senior citizens in a densely populated, developed megacity.

Design: Cohort study.

Methods: The authors analysed the five year survival of 3144 people born in 1903, 1908, 1913, or 1918 who consented to a follow up survey from the records of registered Tokyo citizens in relation to baseline residential environment characteristics in 1992.

Main results: The survival of 2211 and the death of 897 (98.9% follow up) were confirmed. The probability of five year survival of the senior citizens studied increased in accordance with the space for taking a stroll near the residence (p<0.01), parks and tree lined streets near the residence (p<0.05), and their preference to continue to live in their current community (p<0.01). The principal component analysis from the baseline residential environment characteristics identified two environment related factors: the factor of walkable green streets and spaces near the residence and the factor of a positive attitude to a person's own community. After controlling the effects of the residents' age, sex, marital status, and socioeconomic status, the factor of walkable green streets and spaces near the residence showed significant predictive value for the survival of the urban senior citizens over the following five years (p<0.01).

Conclusions: Living in areas with walkable green spaces positively influenced the longevity of urban senior citizens independent of their age, sex, marital status, baseline functional status, and socioeconomic status. Greenery filled public areas that are nearby and easy to walk in should be further emphasised in urban planning for the development and re-development of densely populated areas in a megacity. Close collaboration should be undertaken among the health, construction, civil engineering, planning, and other concerned sectors in the context of the healthy urban policy, so as to promote the health of senior citizens.

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