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Associations of adult physical activity with perceived safety and police-recorded crime: the Multi-ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis

Kelly R Evenson1*, Richard Block2, Ana V Diez Roux3, Aileen P McGinn4, Fang Wen1 and Daniel A Rodríguez5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, 137 East Franklin Street, Suite 306, Chapel Hill, NC, 27514, USA

2 Department of Sociology, Loyola University, Chicago, IL, USA

3 Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

4 Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA

5 Department of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:146  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-146

Published: 17 December 2012



Due to the inconsistent findings of prior studies, we explored the association of perceived safety and police-recorded crime measures with physical activity.


The study included 818 Chicago participants of the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis 45 to 84 years of age. Questionnaire-assessed physical activity included a) transport walking; b) leisure walking; and c) non-walking leisure activities. Perceived safety was assessed through an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Police-recorded crime was assessed through 2-year counts of selected crimes (total and outdoor incivilities, criminal offenses, homicides) per 1000 population. Associations were examined using generalized estimating equation logistic regression models.


Perceiving a safer neighborhood was positively associated with transport walking and perceiving lower violence was associated with leisure walking. Those in the lowest tertile of total or outdoor incivilities were more likely to report transport walking. Models with both perceived safety and police-recorded measures of crime as independent variables had superior fit for both transport walking and leisure walking outcomes. Neither perceived safety nor police-recorded measures of crime were associated with non-walking leisure activity.


Perceived and police-recorded measures had independent associations with walking and both should be considered in assessing the impact of neighborhood crime on physical activity.

Crime; Environment; Geographic Information Systems; Leisure activities; Physical activity; Safety; Social environment; Walking