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J Epidemiol Community Health. Oct 2005; 59(10): 822–827.
PMCID: PMC1732922

Urban built environment and depression: a multilevel analysis

Abstract

Study objective: To assess the relations between characteristics of the neighbourhood internal and external built environment and past six month and lifetime depression.

Design and setting: Depression and sociodemographic information were assessed in a cross sectional survey of residents of New York City (NYC). All respondents were geocoded to neighbourhood of residence. Data on the quality of the built environment in 59 NYC neighbourhoods were collected from the United Status census, the New York City housing and vacancy survey, and the fiscal 2002 New York City mayor's management report.

Main results: Among 1355 respondents, residence in neighbourhoods characterised by a poor quality built environment was associated with greater individual likelihood of past six month and lifetime depression in multilevel models adjusting for individual age, race/ethnicity, sex, and income and for neighbourhood level income. In adjusted models, persons living in neighbourhoods characterised by poorer features of the built environment were 29%–58% more likely to report past six month depression and 36%–64% more likely to report lifetime depression than respondents living in neighbourhoods characterised by better features of the built environment.

Conclusions: Living in neighbourhoods characterised by a poor quality built environment is associated with a greater likelihood of depression. Future prospective work designed to assess potential mechanisms underlying these associations may guide public health and urban planning efforts aimed at improving population mental health.

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