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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Perceptions Mediate the Effects of Neighborhood Physical Conditions on Mental Health


This study investigates how neighborhood deterioration is associated with stress and depressive symptoms and the mediating effects of perceived neighborhood social conditions. Data come from a community survey of 801 respondents geocoded and linked to a systematic on-site assessment of the physical characteristics of nearly all residential and commercial structures around respondents’ homes. Structural equation models controlling for demographic effects indicate that the association between neighborhood deterioration and well-being appear to be mediated through social contact, social capital, and perceptions of crime, but not through neighborhood satisfaction. Specifically, residential deterioration was mediated by social contact, then, social capital and fear of crime. Commercial deterioration, on the other hand, was mediated only through fear of crime. Additionally, data indicate that the functional definition of a ‘‘neighborhood’’ depends on the characteristics measured. These findings suggest that upstream interventions designed to improve neighborhood conditions as well as proximal interventions focused on social relationships, may promote well-being.

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