Pathways to depression: the impact of neighborhood violent crime on inner-city residents in Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Jul;67(1):23-30. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.03.007. Epub 2008 Apr 8.


Crime and neighborhood disorder may negatively impact the health of urban residents. Neighborhoods with high levels of violent crime may also increase residents' risk of experiencing violence. Most studies supporting the assertion that neighborhood disorder impacts mental health have used residents' own ratings of their neighborhoods. The present study examines the relationships among block-group level crime, perceived neighborhood disorder, violence experienced in the neighborhood, and depression. The sample comprising the current and former drug users (n=786) nested in 270 block groups within Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Using path analysis, we tested the hypothesis that neighborhood violent crime has a direct impact on experiences of violence. Also, we hypothesized that neighborhood violence had a direct and indirect impact on depressive symptoms. Results support a model in which violence is associated with psychological distress through perceptions of neighborhood disorder, and through experiences of violence. We conclude that community and structural level interventions are needed to decrease neighborhood crime and improve residents' perception of their neighborhood.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Baltimore
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Perception
  • Poverty Areas
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Urban Health
  • Violence / psychology*