Neighborhood Characteristics and Change in Depressive Symptoms Among Older Residents of New York City


This study investigated the relationship between the depressive symptoms of older adults over time and the characteristics of the neighborhoods in which they live. The authors surveyed a random sample of 1,325 New York City residents aged 50 years or older in 2005 and conducted 808 follow-up interviews in 2007. They assessed the compositional characteristics of the respondents' neighborhoods at a census-tract level and determined the relationships between these characteristics and changes in respondents' depressive symptoms.

In multivariable models that adjusted for individual-level covariates including income, a range of neighborhood characteristics predicted worsening depressive symptoms. Factor analysis suggested that these characteristics operated in three clusters: neighborhood socioeconomic influences; residential stability; and racial/ethnic composition, with positive neighborhood socioeconomic influences being significantly protective against worsening symptoms. Life stressors, personality trait neuroticism, African-American race, and daily baseline contact with social networks also were associated with worsening symptoms.

It was concluded that an older adult's neighborhood of residence is an important determinant of his or her mental health. Those making efforts to improve mental health among the elderly need to consider the role of residential context in improving or impairing mental health.