Neighbourhood features supportive of Physically Active and Mentally Healthy Children

Physical inactivity among children is becoming increasingly prevalent in many developing countries, including Turkey, that face rapid economic and social development, urbanization and industrialization. This has important implications for child health conditions such as mental wellbeing, obesity; and air quality and traffic. The decision to participate in physical activity (PA) is based on multiple factors, which are often framed within the socio-ecological model of health behaviour (Sallis et al., 2015). In this framework the built/natural/social environments are regarded as key factors for driving behaviours. For children’s PA, the built environment is particularly important since interventions at this level may lead to population-level effects.

While previous studies have focused on the associations of personal and/or social factors with children’s PA, research on the role of the built environment is limited. Over the past decades, there has been prolific research highlighting the role of built environment in encouraging increased PA levels among school children; however, there is limited evidence on children’s preferences and experiences regarding their place use and PA in their local neighbourhoods. To the best of our knowledge, no study has investigated the triangulation of children’s place perception, their PA levels and mental health.

Drawing upon the socio-ecological model of health behaviour, this study aims to address some of the above-mentioned gaps through the utilization of a child-centred approach and mixed-methods design, including participatory mapping, qualitative GIS, and space syntax modellingThe overall objective of this project is to contribute to the development of physically and socially active communities by investigating the association of quantitatively and qualitatively measured neighbourhood design with children`s physical activity (PA), and to identify the impacts of this association on mental wellbeing in school children.

The study objectives are to:

(1) investigate the extent to which neighbourhood built environment is related to physical activity (PA) among 9-12 year-old children;

(2) identify how children living in different neighbourhoods (varying in their street network connectivity and greenness) of Ankara, Turkey perceive, assess and use their environments; and

(3) explore the extent to which children’s PA rates are associated with their mental wellbeing.

Related Publications

Severcan, YC., Ozbil Torun, A., Defeyter, MA., Akin, Z., Bingol, H. (2022). “Understanding the Role of the Urban Form in Supporting Positive Experiences and Increased Mental Well-being among Children”, Urban Transitions Conference, 8-10 November, Barcelona.

Severcan, YC., Ozbil Torun, A., Defeyter, MA., Akin, Z., Bingol, H. “Associations of children’s mental wellbeing and the urban form characteristics of their everyday places”, under review.