Psychosocial stress and social support as mediators of relationships between income, length of residence and depressive symptoms among African American women on Detroit's eastside

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Jan;62(2):510-22. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.06.028. Epub 2005 Aug 2.


Patterns of mental health are clearly associated with life circumstances, including educational and economic opportunities, access to safe and supportive neighborhoods, socially structured exposures to stressors and to supportive relationships. In this article, we examine the social and economic correlates of depressive symptoms among African American women residing within a predominantly African American urban neighborhood in Detroit, USA, with relatively few economic resources. We identify distinct stressors associated with financial strain, neighborhood social disorder (concern about police responsiveness, safety stress), and experiences of discrimination. We test the extent to which each of these stressors mediates relationships between household income, length of residence in the neighborhood, social support and depressive symptoms. Our results suggest that for women in this racially segregated area with a high concentration of poverty, relationships between household income and symptoms of depression are partially mediated by financial stress and social support, but that stressors associated with neighborhood disorder and discrimination influence depressive symptoms independent of household income. Furthermore, we find that length of residence in the neighborhood is negatively associated with financial stress and positively associated with police stress and social support, with no significant net effect on symptoms of depression. We conclude that higher household income may help reduce symptoms of depression by reducing financial stress and strengthening social support even within neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty. However, increased household income does not protect African American women residing in a high poverty community from distress associated with neighborhood disorder or experiences of discrimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Depression / economics
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Vulnerable Populations / ethnology*
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology
  • Women's Health / economics
  • Women's Health / ethnology*