Greater social cohesion associated with more physical activity, less obesity
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander adults who lived in neighborhoods with greater social cohesion had both lower odds of obesity and higher odds of engaging in sufficient physical activity, according to data published in Obesity.
“Given that physical activity may be an important behavioral mechanism between social cohesion and obesity, examining the association(s) between neighborhood social cohesion, physical activity and obesity among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander individuals may elucidate important areas for intervention among a group that experiences disproportionately higher obesity rates,” Monica L. Wang, ScD, associate professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health, adjunct associate professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and associate director of narrative at the BU Center for Antiracist Research, and colleagues wrote.
Researchers analyzed cross-sectional data from 2,590 adults included in the 2014 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) National Health Interview Survey to examine associations between neighborhood social cohesion, obesity and physical activity level. The researchers defined social cohesion as feelings of belonging and trust among members of a neighborhood and categorized levels of social cohesion as low, medium or high. They defined physical activity level as insufficiently active (0-149 minutes/week) or sufficiently active (150+ minutes/week) based on participants’ self-reports, and BMI was calculated from self-reported height and weight. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to estimate odds of obesity and sufficient physical activity associated with social cohesion level.
Researchers found participants in neighborhoods with high social cohesion had increased odds for sufficient physical activity (OR = 1.59; 95% CI, 1.19-2.12) and decreased odds for obesity (OR = 0.57; 95% CI, 0.4-0.83) compared with those in low social cohesion neighborhoods. However, no associations were found between social cohesion, obesity and physical activity outcomes when comparing individuals in medium vs. low social cohesion neighborhoods.
“Our findings highlight the need for further investigation of mechanisms underlying the association between neighborhood social cohesion and obesity outcomes among NHPI individuals and the role of social cohesion as a potential intervention target that may guide the development of future community-based interventions addressing obesity and physical activity among this population,” the researchers wrote.