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Advancing Applied MCH Research

(SDAS) Long term effect of social environments on activity patterns and overweight among US adolescents

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Project Number: R40 MC 08958-01
Grantee: University of South Carolina Research Foundation
Department/Center: Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health
Project Date: 2/1/2008

Final Report

(SDAS) Long term effect of social environments on activity patterns and overweight among US adolescents Final Report (PDF) Exit Disclaimer

Principal Investigator

Jihong Liu, Sc.D.
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
800 Sumter Street
Columbia, SC  29208-0001
Phone: (803) 777-6854


  • Adolescence (12-18 years)
  • Young Adulthood (19-25 years)


Despite evidence of significant health benefits from even moderately intense activity, nearly half of American youth are not physically active on a regular basis. With obesity emerging as a major public health crisis, physical activity and sedentary behaviors are key targets for altering energy balance in preventing/reducing obesity. Social ecological models suggest that conditions in the social and physical environment in addition to individual factors play important roles in health behavior change. The role of social environments is an understudied area. While emerging evidence shows that neighborhood physical and social environments have independent effects on physical activity, there has been little research from longitudinal studies identifying the long-term effects of neighborhood environments on physical activity and overweight among the adolescents who are transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood. Also few studies have studied the co-varying patterns of physical activity and inactivity within an individual, its changes over time, and its association with overweight. We propose to fill these gaps by conducting analyses using the data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to determine how social environments (such as neighborhood cohesion, safety, and social network) predict physical activity and inactivity patterns and weight status 6 years later. Add Health surveyed a nationally representative sample of 20,745 students in grades 7 through 12 in 1994-5 and re-interviewed this cohort in 1996 (n=14,738) and 2001 (n=15,197). The proposed study has 3 aims: (1) to describe how physical activity and inactivity patterns at adolescence predict physical activity and inactivity levels 6 years later in early adulthood; (2) to assess the impact of social environments on physical activity and inactivity patterns after controlling the individual social and demographic background; and (3) to evaluate the associations of activity patterns and social environments at baseline with physical activity and inactivity levels, and overweight status 6 years later. Rich information collected in Add Health and its longitudinal design provide an excellent opportunity to study the proposed aims. The adolescent transition is a critical period for the formation of health-promoting behaviors. The findings from the study are important for the design of timely preventive interventions to promote active lifestyles and reduce sedentary behaviors among American adolescents. This proposed research most directly addresses the MCH Bureau's Strategic Research Issue IV, to promote the healthy development of MCH populations. By highlighting the differences in physical activity, inactivity, and overweight among African American and White adolescents, this study will also contribute to MCHB Strategic Research Issue II, to eliminate health disparities for MCH populations.


Listed is descending order by year published.

Kim J, Liu J, Colabianchi N, Pate RR. The effect of perceived and structural neighborhood conditions on adolescents' physical activity and sedentary behaviors. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010 Oct;164(10):935-42.

Liu J, Kim J, Colabianchi N, Ortaglia A, Pate RR. Co-varying patterns of physical activity and sedentary behavior patterns and their long-term maintenance among adolescents. J Phys Act Health. 2010 Jul;7(4):465-74.


Physical Activity, Obesity & Weight, Neighborhood, Health Disparities

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