This study investigates the sense of belonging to a neighbourhood among 9445 women aged 73–78 years participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health. Thirteen items designed to measure sense of neighbourhood were included in the survey of the older women in 1999. Survey data provided a range of measures of demographic, social and health-related factors to assess scale construct validity. Factor analysis showed that seven of the items loaded on one factor that had good face validity and construct validity as a measure of the sense of neighbourhood. Two of the remaining items related to neighbourhood safety and comprised a factor. A better sense of neighbourhood was associated with better physical and mental health, lower stress, better social support and being physically active. Women who had lived longer at their present address had a better sense of belonging to their neighbourhood, as did women living in non-urban areas and who were better able to manage on their income. Feeling safe in the neighbourhood was least likely in urban areas, increased in rural townships, and was most likely in rural and remote areas. Older women living alone felt less safe, as did women who were less able to manage on their income. This study has identified two sets of items that form valid measures of aspects of the social environment of older women, namely the sense of neighbourhood and feelings of safety. These findings make a contribution to our understanding of the relationship between feelings of belonging to a neighbourhood and health in older women.
Social Science and Medicine Vol. 59, Issue 12, p. 2627-2637