Studies have consistently shown that living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods is associated with poor health. There is also some evidence that low income individuals may benefit from living in more advantaged neighbourhoods. However, while neighbourhoods are regarded by policy makers as key social determinants of health and important intervention sites for addressing health inequalities, the exact mechanisms linking neighbourhoods to health remain unclear. Key aspects of neighbourhoods previously shown to be associated with neighbourhood health are neighbourhood reputation, safety and disorder, which have also been linked to the built environment. Residents in disadvantaged neighbourhoods tend to perceive these aspects of their neighbourhood less favourably than residents of advantaged areas. This paper uses Bourdieu’s critical theory of the social reproduction of inequalities to explore how different perceptions of safety, disorder and reputation in contrasting socioeconomic neighbourhoods may influence the health and wellbeing of low-income residents. We identified a group of low income individuals residing in divergent socioeconomic areas in Adelaide, South Australia and explored their neighbourhood perceptions, using survey, in-depth and photo voice interviews. Our findings suggest that low-income individuals benefited from living in an advantaged area where the built environment was well resourced by the economic, cultural and social capital present in the neighbourhood resulting in a more positive perception of the built environment with few signs of disorder, which in turn promoted healthy behaviour and community engagement. However, the impact of the built environment and perception of disorder and safety seemed to affect individual’s health behaviour and wellbeing differently depending on their individual circumstances. Overall this study found that perception of the neighbourhood’s built environment reflected the area’s reputation and levels of disorder and safety, which were influenced by resources of neighbourhood capital suggesting that neighbourhoods can be sites of inequalities for people who are already disadvantaged.
- health and wellbeing
- low income residents
- Neighbourhood built environment