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Assessing environmental features related to mental health: A reliability study of visual streetscape images

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Yu-Tzu WuORCiD, Dr Thais Minett, Professor Fiona MatthewsORCiD, Professor Carol Brayne



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2014 Wu et al.Background: An association between depressive symptoms and features of built environment has been reported in the literature. A remaining research challenge is the development of methods to efficiently capture pertinent environmental features in relevant study settings. Visual streetscape images have been used to replace traditional physical audits and directly observe the built environment of communities. The aim of this work is to examine the inter-method reliability of the two audit methods for assessing community environments with a specific focus on physical features related to mental health. Methods: Forty-eight postcodes in urban and rural areas of Cambridgeshire, England were randomly selected from an alphabetical list of streets hosted on a UK property website. The assessment was conducted in July and August 2012 by both physical and visual image audits based on the items in Residential Environment Assessment Tool (REAT), an observational instrument targeting the micro-scale environmental features related to mental health in UK postcodes. The assessor used the images of Google Street View and virtually "walked through" the streets to conduct the property and street level assessments. Gwet's AC1 coefficients and Bland-Altman plots were used to compare the concordance of two audits. Results: The results of conducting the REAT by visual image audits generally correspond to direct observations. More variations were found in property level items regarding physical incivilities, with broad limits of agreement which importantly lead to most of the variation in the overall REAT score. Postcodes in urban areas had lower consistency between the two methods than rural areas. Conclusions: Google Street View has the potential to assess environmental features related to mental health with fair reliability and provide a less resource intense method of assessing community environments than physical audits.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wu Y-T, Nash P, Barnes LE, Minett T, Matthews FE, Jones A, Brayne C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Public Health

Year: 2014

Volume: 14

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 22/10/2014

Acceptance date: 13/10/2014

Date deposited: 19/05/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2458

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-1094

PubMed id: 25335922


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