Features that enhance neighborhood walkability (higher population density, street connectivity and access to destinations) are associated with higher levels of physical activity among older adults. The perceived neighborhood environment appears to mediate associations between the objective built environment and physical activity. The role of depressed mood in these associations is poorly understood. We examined the degree to which depressive symptoms moderated indirect associations between the objective neighborhood environment and physical activity via the perceived neighborhood environment in older women. We analyzed data on 60,133 women (mean age = 73.1 ± 6.7 years) in the U.S. Nurses' Health Study cohort who completed the 2008 questionnaire. Self-reported measures included the Geriatric Depression Scale, perceived presence of recreational facilities, retail destinations, sidewalks, and crime, and participation in recreational physical activity and neighborhood walking. We created an objective walkability index by summing z-scores of intersection and facility counts within 1200-meter residential network buffers and census tract-level population density. We used multiple regression with bootstrap-generated 95% bias-corrected confidence intervals (BC CIs) to test for mediation and moderated mediation. Objective walkability predicted 1.99 times greater odds of neighborhood walking (95% BC CI = 1.92, 2.06) and 1.38 times greater odds of meeting physical activity recommendations (95% BC CI = 1.34, 1.43) via the perceived neighborhood environment. These indirect associations were weaker among women with higher depressive symptom scores. Women living in more walkable areas had more positive perceptions of their neighborhood and, in turn, engaged in more physical activity, particularly if they reported lower depressive symptoms, than women living in less walkable areas.
Neighborhood walkability and physical activity among older women: Tests of mediation by perceptions and moderation by depressive symptoms.