Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 73 ›› Issue (2): 333-345.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201802009

• Environment and Health Geography • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The impact of urban built environment on residential physical health: Based on propensity score matching

ZHANG Yanji1(),QIN Bo2,TANG Jie2   

  1. 1. Department of Urban and Rural Planning, Fuzhou University, Fuzhou 350116, China
    2. Department of Urban Planning and Management, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2017-02-16 Online:2018-02-11 Published:2018-02-11
  • Supported by:
    National Nature Science Foundation of China, No.41371007


With the process of urbanization and motorization, obesity and chronic diseases have become a serious social problem, but the empirical study on the impact of urban built environment on public physical health is still lacking in Chinese context. In this paper, we use the data from China's general social survey in 2010 and select 6740 samples in 278 urban communities throughout 31 provincial areas. Other geographical data are also introduced into the analysis, such as point of interests and road network surrounding each community. In order to control the interference of self-selection mechanism, this research uses a quasi-experimental method called propensity score matching. According to this empirical analysis, firstly, the study indicates that high-density land use has a negative impact on the overall physical health of the residents, which is contrary to comparatively low density developed cities in Western countries. Nevertheless, similar to international literatures, all of the mixed urban function, urban texture with an accessible branch network, and adequate health facilities play a positive role in reducing BMI, inhibiting overweight and lowering chronic diseases. Secondly, these built environment elements have various impacts on different social classes. The upper class is mainly influenced in the subjective physical health perception while the lower class is more affected in the objective physical health status. Thirdly, there is a closer relationship between the ambient built environment characteristics of small spatial scale and the health status of middle- and low-stratum groups, but this rule is not obvious among middle and high social classes, which reflects that the surrounding environmental quality of public space has a more direct and important impact on the physical health of vulnerable groups. In conclusion, this study proves the effectiveness of active spatial intervention in the process of improving public physical health as well as alleviating health inequality problem, and then puts forward some suggestions on optimization strategy of urban built environment in China.

Key words: built environment, physical health, propensity score matching, Chinese general social survey