The association between tree canopy cover over streets and elderly pedestrian falls: A health disparity study in urban areas

Sungmin Lee, Xinyue Ye, Ji Won Nam, Kai Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Older pedestrians are vulnerable to outdoor falling while walking on streets/sidewalks, but few studies have examined the role of the street environment and tree canopy cover over streets in relation to pedestrian falls among the elderly. We used spatial analysis to examine the association between tree canopy cover over streets and pedestrian falls reported to Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers from March 2013 to February 2020 among adults aged 65 and older living in urban areas of Marin County, CA. Tree canopy cover over streets was measured using 1-m resolution of tree canopy within street polygons. After controlling for socioeconomic status and built environments, we found an inverse association between tree canopy cover over streets and elderly pedestrian fall rates at the census block level. Specifically, with a 10-percentage point increase in tree canopy cover over streets of a block, we expected to see about an 11.2% decrease in the elderly pedestrian fall rate. We found that the inverse relationship between tree canopy cover over streets and elderly pedestrian falls was only significant during the leaf-on season in the spring and summer. Finally, sub-analysis found that the relationship between tree canopy cover over streets and elderly pedestrian falls was stronger in low-income areas, compared to high-income areas. Planting street trees is a potential evidence-based intervention to prevent pedestrian falls. However, special attention must go beyond the quantity of tree canopy cover over streets to consider biophysical factors and social conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115169
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume306
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Keywords

  • Elderly pedestrian falls
  • Health disparity
  • Outdoor falls
  • Tree canopy cover over streets

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