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Bad neighborhoods can cause depression

Neighborhoods are often thought merely to reflect the people who live in them, but a new study suggests that bad neighborhoods contribute to feelings of depression in residents.

"Neighborhoods characterized by disorder present residents with observable signs that social control has broken down. The daily stress associated with living in a neighborhood where neighbors are not trustworthy, and danger, trouble, and crime are common may produce feelings of depression," said study author Catherine E. Ross, Ph.D., of Ohio State University in Columbus.

Analyzing data from a survey of nearly 2,500 Illinois residents, Ross found that residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods -- characterized by a high percentage of poor, mother-only households -- had higher depression levels than those living in less disadvantaged neighborhoods.

More than half of this depression could be accounted for by the greater numbers of disadvantaged residents of such neighborhoods, including women, individuals with low income, and unemployed, younger, and unmarried individuals -- all of whom are known to have higher depression levels than their counterparts: men, individuals with high income, and employed, older, and married individuals.

But Ross also found that disadvantaged neighborhoods exert their own impact on residents' mental health, above and beyond the characteristics of their residents -- through the breakdown of social control and order common in such neighborhoods. Ross reports her findings in the June 2000 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

"Poor, single-parent neighborhoods are distressing to the individuals who live there because they have high levels of disorder. In disadvantaged neighborhoods, residents are more likely to report that there are too many people hanging around on the streets, using drugs, and drinking; that there is a lot of crime, graffiti, and vandalism; and that their neighborhood is not safe. These signs of disorder are di
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Contact: Catherine E. Ross, Ph.D.
Ross.131@osu.edu
941-395-2941
Center for the Advancement of Health
19-Jun-2000


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