Neighborhood built environment associated with cognition and dementia risk among older adults: A systematic literature review. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cognitive impairment associated with aging is a serious and growing public health problem. This systematic literature review contributes to better understanding the current state of knowledge on the roles of neighborhood environments in supporting cognitive health in later life. Literature search was carried out in 2020 using the seven databases most relevant to the topic. This review was restricted to peer-reviewed observational and quantitative studies that focused on 1) community-dwelling older adults as target populations; 2) neighborhood built environments as independent variables; and 3) cognition or dementia as outcome variables. Thirty-seven studies published between 1989 and 2020 met the inclusion criteria. The neighborhood built environment domains covered in these included urbanity/rurality, land use, neighborhood physical disorder, transportation infrastructure, urban design, and urban nature. Neighborhood resources and green space exposure were most frequently studied and linked to cognition-related outcomes. Neighborhood built environment was shown to be more pertinent to older adults' global cognition, memory, and dementia. Physical activity showed a mediating role between neighborhood built environment and cognition. The effect of neighborhood built environment on cognitive function was stronger among older women and those with disabilities or lower socioeconomic status. Evidence on the relationship between neighborhood built environment and cognition/dementia among older adults is moderate. Our findings highlight the need for more standardized and longitudinal measures of neighborhood built environment and high-sensitivity cognitive tests that capture the specific and relevant domains of cognition, to facilitate further exploration of the mediating and moderating effects of neighborhood built environment with cognition/dementia in older adults. This review offers insights for future research and policy efforts toward creating communities to support cognitive health and aging in place.

published proceedings

  • Soc Sci Med

author list (cited authors)

  • Chen, X. i., Lee, C., & Huang, H.

complete list of authors

  • Chen, Xi||Lee, Chanam||Huang, Hao

publication date

  • January 1, 2022 11:11 AM