Given the shift towards an aging population and the growing rates of depression among older adults, understanding the factors that contribute to depression is critical.
Older adults who live in poor and violent urban neighborhoods are at a greater risk of depression, a new study reveals. The study appeared in the journal Health & Place.
According to researchers from the University of California in the US, older adults who lived in neighborhoods with more homicide and a higher poverty rate experienced more depressive symptoms.
The researchers did a three-year study of elderly residents in the nation's most populous city. Depression was measured using the nine-question Patient Health Questionnaire. They looked at several neighborhood factors that might contribute to depression, such as high homicide rates, poor perception of safety, pedestrian and bicyclist injuries, green space, social cohesion and walkability.
The study sample was 61% female and 47% non-Hispanic white. In addition, 60% of respondents had incomes below $40,000 dollars. While many factors were examined, violence was the only neighborhood characteristic that substantially contributed to depression in older adults in impoverished, urban communities.
"We wanted to investigate the total effect poverty has on older adult depression, but also look at particular characteristics which might explain that relationship," said senior study author Magdalena Cerda. "We found that about 30 percent of the relationship between neighborhood poverty and depression was explained by the higher homicide rate," Cerda stated.
These findings could help shape policy to improve quality of life for older adults in urban neighborhoods. "The study highlights the key role that violence can play in shaping the mental health of local residents. By investing in violence prevention in high-poverty neighborhoods, it's possible to reduce violence and improve the mental health of vulnerable populations," Cerda explained.