Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Social Work

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Due to their diminished functional capacity, older adults are most sensitive and susceptible to the influences of immediate environmental situations. For older adults to enjoy healthy, safe, and active lives in the community, their neighborhood environment must have good person-environment fit. This study extends the current knowledge base of environment and healthy aging by using structural equation modeling with nationally representative panel data, the 2012-2014 Health and Retirement Study, (1) to discern the direct impact of neighborhood features on well-being (i.e., physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction) in later life, (2) to investigate the intermediate outcome (i.e. social participation) of environmental antecedents and its pathway pointing to the ultimate health outcomes, and 3) to determine the relative importance of physical versus social aspects of neighborhood environment to participation and well-being in later life. A significant pathway was found between neighborhood environment and individual health outcomes (i.e., life satisfaction, depressive symptoms) and that pathway partially went through participation of the following social activities: interpersonal exchange/helping others and community leisure. Neighborhood physical environment (measured by neighborhood physical disorder scale) was found significantly associated with physical health, whereas neighborhood social environment (measured by neighborhood social cohesion scale) mattered to mental health (i.e., depressive symptoms) and psychological well-being (i.e., life satisfaction). Understanding the associations among environment, participation, and well-being confirms the hypothesis that environment influences people’s well-being both directly and indirectly by changing human behaviors (i.e., social participation). The findings bring greater attention to the environmental and social factors of health in later life and set the stage for the development and implementation of interventions/ programs fundamentally informed by the person-environment perspective so as to improve human lives.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Nancy Morrow-Howell

Committee Members

Shenyang Guo, Sojuang Park, Rodrigo S. Reis, Susan Stark,


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Available for download on Monday, May 15, 2119