Neighbourhood recreational space: does it impact youth smoking?


Youth smoking has been traditionally studied in relation to individual, family and peer influences. In the past few years, however, the physical environment of the neighbourhood has also been considered to be an important contributor in tobacco consumption.

In a recently published study , researchers examined the relationship of recreational spaces (i.e., plazas and soccer fields) with youth tobacco consumption in mid- to low income areas of Santiago in Chile, while controlling for factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, peer substance usage, neighbourhood crime.

The study data originate from a study on drug abuse in over 1000 adolescents of mid- to low- socioeconomic status in Santiago. The participants gave a 2 hour interview on substance using behaviours, as well as individual, family and neighbourhood characteristics. Residential street addresses of all respondents were recorded at each interview. A team of research assistants subsequently mapped  the addresses in order to locate the respondents on a map, using Geographic Information System (GIS) software.  The location of each study participant was then linked to the collected survey data.

The main findings of this study can be summarized as follows:

– Accessibility to recreational spaces was significantly and inversely associated with smoking for female adolescents, controlling for age, socioeconomic status, peer substance use and perception of neighbourhood crime.

– For male adolescents, however, the perception of neighbourhood crime was significantly associated with smoking behaviour.

The authors conclude that  communities with limited recreational space can consider developing such space as a neighborhood asset and as alternative recreational spaces/activities to youth smoking

What do you think? Can neighbourhood recreational spaces impact youth smoking?


This study was conducted by Wonhyung Lee , Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, Guillermo Sanhueza, Fernando Andrade and Jorge Delva from the University of Michigan and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

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