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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2007 Jan;62(1):S52-9.

Urban neighborhoods and depressive symptoms among older adults.

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  • 1Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, Box 951772, 650 Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772, USA.



This study seeks to determine whether depressive symptoms among older persons systematically vary across urban neighborhoods such that experiencing more symptoms is associated with low socioeconomic status (SES), high concentrations of ethnic minorities, low residential stability and low proportion aged 65 years and older.


Survey data are from the Study of Assets and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD), a 1993 U.S. national probability sample of noninstitutionalized persons born in 1923 or earlier (i.e. people aged 70 or older). Neighborhood data are from the 1990 Census at the tract level. Hierarchical linear regression is used to estimate multilevel models.


The average number of depressive symptoms varies across Census tracts independent of individual-level characteristics. Symptoms are not significantly associated with neighborhood SES, ethnic composition, or age structure when individual-level characteristics are controlled statistically. However, net of individual-level characteristics, symptoms are positively associated with neighborhood residential stability, pointing to a complex meaning of residential stability for the older population.


This study shows that apparent neighborhood-level socioeconomic effects on depressive symptoms among urban-dwelling older adults are largely if not entirely compositional in nature. Further, residential stability in the urban neighborhood may not be emotionally beneficial to its aged residents.

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