Individuals with physical disabilities more active in neighborhoods with open space

Researchers at the Kessler Foundation have found that overall living conditions of the built environment may be relevant to social inclusion for individuals with physical disabilities.

In the recently published study, researchers obtained cross-sectional data from 508 community-living chronically disabled adults in New Jersey from among participants in the national Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems database and geocoded participants’ residential addresses to link individual survey data with Geographic Information Systems data on land use and destinations. They modeled the influence of residential density, land use mix, destination counts and open space on four domains of participation in the neighborhood and community.

Study results showed a decreased likelihood of reporting optimum social and physical activity among participants who lived in communities with greater land use mix and more destinations. However, researchers found participants who lived in neighborhoods with large portions of open space were more likely to report full physical, occupational and social participation.

“Overall, our analysis suggested that the living conditions or natural aspects of the local community may be relevant to well-being for persons with physical disabilities living in densely populated regions like New Jersey,” Amanda L. Botticello, PhD, MPH, of the Kessler Foundation, stated in a press release. “These findings focus attention on the environment as an important factor to be considered in disability-related outcomes. They are relevant to those who seek to improve the outlook for community participation, including outcomes researchers, policymakers and professionals who care for people with disabilities.”

Disclosure: The research was supported by funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development and the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

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