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Introduction: Understanding associations between physical function and neighborhood disadvantage may provide insights into which interventions might best contribute to reducing socioeconomic inequalities in health. This study examines associations between neighborhood-disadvantage, individual-level socioeconomic position (SEP) and physical function from a multilevel perspective.

Methods: Data were obtained from the HABITAT multilevel longitudinal (2007-13) study of middle-aged adults, using data from the fourth wave (2013). This investigation included 6,004 residents (age 46-71 years) of 535 neighborhoods in Brisbane, Australia. Physical function was measured using the PF-10 (0 – 100), with higher scores indicating better function. The data were analyzed using multilevel linear regression and was extended to test for cross-level interactions by including interaction terms for different combinations of SEP (education, occupation, household income) and neighborhood disadvantage on physical function.

Results: Residents of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods had significantly lower function (men: β -11.36 95% CI -13.74, -8.99; women: β -11.41 95% CI -13.60, -9.22). These associations remained after adjustment for individual-level SEP. Individuals with no post-school education, those permanently unable to work, and members of the lowest household income had significantly poorer physical function. Cross-level interactions suggested that the relationship between household income and physical function is different across levels of neighborhood disadvantage for men; and for education and occupation for women.

Conclusion: Living in a disadvantaged neighborhood was negatively associated with physical function after adjustment for individual-level SEP. These results may assist in the development of policy-relevant targeted interventions to delay the rate of physical function decline at a community-level.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Open Access Journal Article

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