Background Few older adults achieve recommended physical activity levels. We conducted a 'Neighborhood Environment-Wide Association Study (NE-WAS)' of neighborhood influences on physical activity among older adults, analogous, in a genetic context, to a Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS). Methods Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly (PASE) and socio-demographic data were collected via telephone survey of 3,497 residents of New York City aged 65-75. Using Geographic Information Systems, we created 337 variables describing each participant's residential neighborhood's built, social, and economic context. We used survey-weighted regression models adjusting for individual-level covariates to test for associations between each neighborhood variable and 1) total PASE score, 2) gardening activity, 3) walking, and 4) housework (as a negative control). We also applied two 'Big Data' analytic techniques, LASSO regression and Random Forests, to algorithmically select neighborhood variables predictive of these four physical activity measures. Results Of all 337 measures, proportion of residents living in extreme poverty was most strongly associated with total physical activity (-0.85 (95% CI: -1.14, -0.56) PASE units per 1% increase in proportion of residents living with household incomes less than half the federal poverty line). Only neighborhood socioeconomic status and disorder measures were associated with total activity and gardening, whereas a broader range of measures was associated with walking. As expected, no neighborhood measures were associated with housework after accounting for multiple comparisons. Conclusions This systematic approach revealed patterns in the domains of neighborhood measures associated with physical activity. Impact The NE-WAS approach appears to be a promising exploratory technique.
- Received October 18, 2016.
- Revision received January 9, 2017.
- Accepted January 27, 2017.
- Copyright ©2017, American Association for Cancer Research.