PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (11): 1712-1725.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.11.007

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Using the theory of planned behavior to understand the effects of urban residential differentiation on residents’ physical activities

LI Zhixuan, HU Hong*()   

  1. School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China
  • Received:2018-12-25 Revised:2019-02-03 Online:2019-11-28 Published:2019-11-28
  • Contact: HU Hong
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No(41501169);Foundation of Peking University-Lincoln Institute Center for Urban Development and Land Policy (2017-2018), No(FS04-20180101-HH)


Residential differentiation refers to the spatial agglomeration of different social classes due to various socioeconomic backgrounds, housing preferences, and so on. Although rich literature has explored the relationship between residential differentiation and public health, few have combined urban geography with social psychology to analyze such relationship from the perspective of rational action. This study constructed a theoretical framework based on the theory of planned behavior. It took Nanjing City as the case study area and employed a structural equation model to analyze the complex influencing paths between residents' attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavior control, physical activity intention, and actual physical activities by taking into account the unique residential differentiation context in China. This study collected 747 valid survey questionnaires from 31 neighborhoods in March-June 2018. The results show that there are significant differences in the socioeconomic characteristics and physical activity hours per week, perceived neighborhood environment, physical activity intention of respondents of traditional neighborhoods, working unit housing areas, affordable housing neighborhoods, urban villages, and commercial housing neighborhoods. Although urban villages and affordable housing neighborhoods have relatively less health resources and more lower income families than commercial housing neighborhoods, residents living in these neighborhoods perceive stronger health behavior control and show more positive health behavior intention and longer physical activity hours. Residents' physical activities are influenced by their perceived neighborhood environment and health behavior intention. Residents with more positive subjective norms are more satisfied with their residential environment, tend to positively evaluate benefits of physical activities, and consequently feel less barriers of doing physical activities. This can be explained by that the norms of residents' social environment affect residents' recognition effects of physical activities. When more people around are engaged in physical exercises, the surveyed residents think that physical activities are more important. The most significant factor affecting residents' intentions of physical activities and actual physical activities is the perceived strength of behavior control. Therefore, in addition to improving public opinion and residents' attitudes towards physical activities, it is necessary to reduce the perceived strength of behavior control and to improve the accessibility of health resources. This study provides some insights into actively intervening health behavior through improving built environments for health policy making.

Key words: theory of planned behavior, residential differentiation, residents' health, physical activity, Nanjing City