Natural and built environments and blood pressure of Alpine schoolchildren

Angel M. Dzhambov*, Peter Lercher, Iana Markevych, Matthew H.E.M. Browning, Johannes Rüdisser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Early life environments may influence children's blood pressure (BP), but evidence on the combined effects of natural and built environment exposures is scarce. The present study investigates the associations of natural and built environment indicators, traffic noise, and air pollution with BP in children living in Alpine valleys. Methods: In 2004/2005, 1251 school children (8–12 years old) were sampled for a cross-sectional survey in several Austrian and Italian mountain valleys. Children's mothers completed a questionnaire. The outcomes of interest were systolic and diastolic BP measured with a calibrated oscillometric device. Indicators of land cover assigned to the residential and school coordinates within 100 and 1000 m included normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), tree canopy cover, and a broader naturalness indicator titled distance to nature (D2N). The presence of a home garden was also measured via self-report. Imperviousness density served as a proxy for the built environment. Residential air pollution (NO2) and noise (Lden) from traffic were calculated using bespoke modeling. NO2, Lden, physical activity, and body mass index (BMI) were treated as mediating pathways. Results: Higher NDVI and tree cover levels in residential and school surroundings and home gardens were consistently associated with lower BP. The built environment was associated with higher BP. Counterintuitive inverse associations between NO2 and Lden and BP were also found. Structural equation modeling showed that higher levels of greenspace and presence of a home garden were weakly associated with more outdoor play spaces, and in turn with lower BMI, and ultimately with lower BP. Conclusions: Exposure to natural environments may help maintain normal BP in children, while built environment may increase children's BP. Outdoor play and less adiposity in greener areas may mediate some of these associations. Evidence on air pollution and noise remains controversial and difficult to explain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111925
JournalEnvironmental Research
Issue numberA
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Air pollution
  • CVD
  • Green space
  • Greenness
  • Grey space
  • Traffic noise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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