Findings from research on the association between the built environment and obesity remain equivocal but may be partly explained by differences in approaches used to characterize the built environment. Findings obtained using subjective measures may differ substantially from those measured objectively. We investigated the agreement between perceived and objectively measured obesogenic environmental features to assess (1) the extent of agreement between individual perceptions and observable characteristics of the environment and (2) the agreement between aggregated perceptions and observable characteristics, and whether this varied by type of characteristic, region or neighbourhood. Cross-sectional data from the SPOTLIGHT project (n=6037 participants from 60 neighbourhoods in five European urban regions) were used. Residents' perceptions were self-reported, and objectively measured environmental features were obtained by a virtual audit using Google Street View. Percent agreement and Kappa statistics were calculated. The mismatch was quantified at neighbourhood level by a distance metric derived from a factor map. The extent to which the mismatch metric varied by region and neighbourhood was examined using linear regression models. Overall, agreement was moderate (agreement<82%, kappa<0.3) and varied by obesogenic environmental feature, region and neighbourhood. Highest agreement was found for food outlets and outdoor recreational facilities, and lowest agreement was obtained for aesthetics. In general, a better match was observed in high-residential density neighbourhoods characterized by a high density of food outlets and recreational facilities. Future studies should combine perceived and objectively measured built environment qualities to better understand the potential impact of the built environment on health, particularly in low residential density neighbourhoods.
- Built environment
- Virtual audit
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health