Perceived barriers towards physical activity and healthy eating as well as local availability of opportunities (destinations in the neighbourhood) are important determinants of obesity-related behaviours in adults. Little is known, however, about how these factors interact with the behaviours. Data were analysed from 5,205 participants of the SPOTLIGHT survey, conducted in 60 neighbourhoods in urban regions of five different countries across Europe. A virtual audit was conducted to collect data on the presence of destinations in each neighbourhood. Direct associations of, and interactions between, the number of individual perceived barriers and presence of destinations with obesity-related behaviours (physical activity and dietary behaviours) were analysed using multilevel regression analyses, adjusted for key covariates. Perceiving more individual barriers towards physical activity and healthy eating was associated with lower odds of physical activity and healthy eating. The presence of destinations such as bicycle lanes, parks and supermarkets was associated with higher levels of physical activity and healthier dietary behaviours. Analyses of additive interaction terms suggested that the interaction of destinations and barriers was competitive, such that the presence of destinations influenced obesity-related behaviours most among those perceiving more barriers. These explorative findings emphasize the interest and importance of combining objective (e.g. virtual neighbourhood audit) methods and subjective (e.g. individual perceived barriers collected in a survey) to better understand how the characteristics of the residential built environment can shape obesity-related behaviours depending on individual characteristics.

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Obesity Reviews
Department of Public Health

Mackenbach, J., Lakerveld, J., van Lenthe, F., Teixeira, P. J., Compernolle, S., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., … Brug, H. (2016). Interactions of individual perceived barriers and neighbourhood destinations with obesity-related behaviours in Europe. Obesity Reviews, 17, 68–80. doi:10.1111/obr.12374