Ageing and Society

Articles

Neighbourhood social environment and depressive symptoms in mid-life and beyond

MAI STAFFORDa1 c1, ANNE MCMUNNa2 and ROBERTO DE VOGLIa2

a1 MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, London, UK.

a2 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, UK.

ABSTRACT

This prospective study examines the relationship between aspects of the neighbourhood social environment and subsequent depressive symptoms in over 7,500 participants of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Neighbourhood social environment at baseline was operationalised using four items capturing social cohesion and three items capturing perceived safety and associations with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) at two-year follow-up were assessed. Friendship quality and personal sense of control were tested as mediators of this relationship using structural equation modelling. Neighbourhood social cohesion was found to be associated with reporting fewer depressive symptoms independent of demographic and socioeconomic factors and baseline depressive symptoms. Friendship quality and sense of control mediated this association. The study highlights that greater personal sense of control, higher quality friendships and fewer depressive symptoms are found in neighbourhoods seen to be characterised by higher social cohesion.

(Accepted October 15 2010)

(Online publication January 20 2011)