Built environment and loneliness in later life: productive engagement as the pathway

Yuanyuan Fu, Yaqi Wang, Yingqi Guo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Objectives: The built environment is increasingly recognized as being associated with late-life loneliness. However, the pathway remains understudied. This study investigated the mediating effects of productive engagement in relationships between the built environment and loneliness.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from 4,409 community-dwelling people aged 65 years and above in China. We employed the Chinese version of the De Jong Gierveld Loneliness Scale to assess loneliness. The built environment comprises residential density, street connectivity, park-based and vegetation-based green space, land use mix, and the number of and distance to the nearest recreational, health, shopping and community services within 300-meter and 500-meter buffer areas. Structural equation modeling was used.

Results: Only green space (parks) had a direct effect on loneliness. Residential density and green space (parks) had an indirect effect on loneliness through volunteering. The number of recreational services had an indirect effect on loneliness through recreational and sporting activities, although distance to the nearest recreational services did not. All the significant results were only found within 300-meter rather than 500-meter buffers.

Conclusions: Our findings have implications for environmental gerontology theory and practice. Providing more green space and recreational services can significantly improve older adults’ helping behavior, social activities and sporting activities, which can further reduce older adults’ loneliness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)900-909
Number of pages10
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number6
Early online date2 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

User-Defined Keywords

  • built environment
  • China
  • Loneliness
  • older adults
  • productive engagement


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