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Soc Sci Med. 2009 Feb;68(3):427-35. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.10.028. Epub 2008 Nov 25.

Neighborhood social cohesion and youth participation in physical activity in Chicago.

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  • 1Department of society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, United States.


Many young people do not meet recommended levels of participation in physical activity. Neighborhoods may play a role in supporting healthy behavior via social and physical environmental features. We examine whether neighborhood-levels of social cohesion, range of youth services and educational attainment were associated with participation in recreational programs and general physical activity among young people. Hierarchical regression analyses were carried out using data from 680 young people (ages 11-15 years at baseline) participating in the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. The participants' primary caregiver reported recreational program participation at baseline and self-reported general physical activity were assessed at follow-up 2-3 years later. Neighborhood-level characteristics were obtained from census data and via a community survey. Neighborhood social cohesion was inversely associated with participation in recreational programs at baseline, controlling for availability of neighborhood services for youth, neighborhood education status, race/ethnicity, individual-level parental education, overweight status, sex, and age. Residing in an area with greater social cohesion was directly associated with frequency of reported general physical activity, independent of previously reported participation in recreational programs and other neighborhood and individual-level covariates. The present findings suggest that neighborhood social cohesion influences participation in physical activity.

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