J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech-2013-202682
  • Research report

Home and work neighbourhood environments in relation to body mass index: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

  1. Kayleen Williams6
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
  5. 5Division of Epidemiology, University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, Berkeley, California, USA
  6. 6Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Kari Moore, Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA; kbrunn{at}
  • Received 27 March 2013
  • Revised 30 May 2013
  • Accepted 5 June 2013
  • Published Online First 18 July 2013


Background Little is known about the neighbourhood characteristics of workplaces, the extent to which they are independently and synergistically correlated with residential environments, and their impact on health.

Methods This study investigated cross-sectional relationships between home and workplace neighbourhood environments with body mass index (BMI) in 1503 working participants of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis with mean age 59.6 (SD=7.4). Neighbourhood features were socioeconomic status (SES), social environment (aesthetic quality, safety and social cohesion) and physical environment (walking environment, recreational facilities and food stores) derived from census data, locational data on businesses and survey data. Paired t tests and correlations compared environments overall and by distance between locations. Cross-classified multilevel models estimated associations with BMI.

Results Home neighbourhoods had more favourable social environments while workplaces had more favourable SES and physical environments. Workplace and home measures were correlated (0.39–0.70), and differences between home and workplaces were larger as distance increased. Associations between BMI and neighbourhood SES and recreational facilities were stronger for home environment (p≤0.05) but did not significantly differ for healthy food, safety or social cohesion. Healthy food availability at home and work appeared to act synergistically (interaction p=0.01).

Conclusions Consideration of workplace environment may enhance our understanding of how place affects BMI.

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