Community types and mental health: a multilevel study of local environmental stress and coping

Am J Community Psychol. 2007 Mar;39(1-2):107-19. doi: 10.1007/s10464-007-9099-y.


Research has found that neighborhood structural characteristics can influence residents' mental health. Few studies, however, have explored the proximal reasons behind such influences. This study investigates how different types of communities, in terms of environmental stressors (social and physical disorder and fear of crime) and social resources (informal ties and formal organizational participation), affect well-being, depression, and anxiety in adult residents. Data are from a survey of 412 residents nested in 50 street blocks. Block stressors and resources were cluster analyzed to identify six block types. After controlling for several individual- and block-level characteristics, results from multilevel models suggest that in communities facing relatively few stressors, higher levels of formal participation are associated with better mental health. Because high levels of formal participation were not found in communities with higher levels of stressors, the impact of participation in such contexts could not be examined. However, results suggest that in communities where stressors are more common, isolation from neighbors may have a protective effect on mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mid-Atlantic Region
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Stress, Psychological*