Neighbourhood effects on body constitution : a case study of Hong Kong

Chien Tat LOW, Poh Chin LAI, Han Dong LI, Wai Kit HO, Pui Yun, Paulina WONG, Si CHEN, Wing Cheung WONG

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long perceived environment as an integral part of the development of body constitution, which is a personal state of health closely related to disease presence. Despite of the ever-growing studies on the clinical effectiveness of TCM and the scientific linking between body constitution and diseases, the geographical influence on body constitution has yet remained an unexplored territory. This study sought to investigate whether the neighbourhood environment is relevant to the composition of body type of a population through statistical multilevel and Geographic Information Systems modelling. The analysis comprised 3277 participants who had completed their body type assessment between 2009 and 2012 inclusive. The multilevel analysis also took simultaneous accounts of both individual-level (gender, age, BMI, type of housing) and area-level (percent greenery, percent road surface, total road intersection, sky view factor, temperature, relative humidity, rainfall and social deprivation index) characteristics to explain geographical variation by body types. Significant random or place effects (p < 0.001) were identified in the multilevel models. The spatial variation of body constitution involved the dynamic interplay between individual and environmental factors. The findings amassed the first scientific indications to back the common belief that place does play a role in the development of body constitution and is worthy of further investigation. By considering spatial and personal attributes simultaneously, the study can yield valuable insights into the patterning of area variation in body constitution and disease presence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-74
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date13 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Hong Kong
  • Neighbourhood effect
  • Body constitution
  • Multilevel model
  • Traditional chinese medicine (TCM)
  • Geographic information system (GIS)


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