Observing the neighborhood multidimensionality and overweight in children of different developmental stages—the emergence of an unusual association

Ana C. Lourenço, Helena G. Nogueira, Daniela Rodrigues, Augusta Gama, Aristides M. Machado-Rodrigues, Maria Raquel G. Silva, Cristina Padez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study examines whether the association of the neighborhood environment and overweight in children is moderated by age. This was a cross-sectional study of 832 children aged 3 to 10 years living in the city of Oporto (Portugal). Children were recruited under the scope of the project “Inequalities in Childhood Obesity: The impact of the socioeconomic crisis in Portugal from 2009 to 2015.” Overweight was defined according to the International Obesity Task Force criteria. Parents completed a self-administered questionnaire capturing sociodemographic characteristics and their perceptions of their neighborhood environment. Logistic regressions were used to examine the influence of parental perceived neighborhood characteristics (latent variables: attractiveness, traffic safety, crime safety, and walkability) on overweight in children. A stratified analysis by age category was conducted. Overall, 27.8% of the children were overweight, 17.4% were aged 3 to 5 years, and 31.8% were aged 6 to 10 years. Children aged 3 to 5 years were more sensitive to the neighborhood environment than children aged 6 to 10 years. For children aged 3 to 5 years, the risk of overweight was inversely associated with neighborhood crime safety (OR = 1.84; 95% CI 1.07–3.15; p = 0.030). Conclusion: Our study suggests the existence of a sensitive age period in childhood at which exposure to a hostile neighborhood environment is most determining for weight gain. Until today, it was thought that the impact of the neighborhood environment on younger children would be less important as they are less autonomous. But it may not be true. What is Known: • The neighborhood environment may adversely affect children’s weight status. However, the moderating role of child age in the association between neighborhood environment and overweight is uncertain. What is New: • The study highlights that the association between the neighborhood environment and child overweight is attenuated by age. It is stronger for preschoolers than for early school-age children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611 - 618
JournalEuropean Journal Of Pediatrics
Issue number2
Early online date8 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Childhood overweight
  • Latent variables
  • Neighborhood environment
  • Parental perceptions
  • Portugal


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