Objective: To explore the relationship between frequency of walking trips in children, their perceptions of the local environment and their individual travel preferences.
Design: Cross-sectional questionnaire-based study.
Setting: Six primary schools in Birmingham, United Kingdom, range of socio-economic classifications.
Participants: 473 children aged 9 to 11 years (82% response rate); 250 (52.9%) male; 160 from ethnic minority populations (33.8%).
Main outcome measures: Primary outcome measure was level of walking (high / low) based on self-reported walking frequency in the past week. Secondary outcome measures included child perceptions of 7 aspects of the local environment and individual travel preference. All were measured through questionnaire administered at school with a researcher present.
Results: 198 (41.9%) of children were classified as high and 275 (58.1%) as low walkers. After adjusting for confounding factors, high walkers were more likely to perceive heavy traffic surrounding their homes (odds ratio 1.55 95% confidence interval 1.03 – 2.33), to perceive unsafe streets (O.R 1.88 C.I 1.27 – 2.80), and to prefer healthier modes of travel (O.R 1.67 C.I 2.56 – 1.08). High walkers were less likely to worry about strangers (O.R 0.66 CI 0.45 – 1.02) and less likely to report no parks or sports grounds nearby (O.R 0.66 C.I 0.42 – 1.02). Ethnic minority children walked significantly less than white children (mean number of walking trips 16.8 and 21.9 respectively, p<0.001).
Conclusions: Certain environmental perceptions are related to walking levels in children. Awareness of these may advise the development of future interventions as well as allowing healthcare professionals to encourage walking by providing case specific and appropriate advice.
- local environment