Background: There is growing evidence that neighborhood environments are related to depressive mood in the general population. Older adults may be even more vulnerable to neighborhood factors than other adults. The aim of this paper is to review empirical findings on the relationships between neighborhood characteristics and depressive mood among older adults.
Methods: A search of the literature was undertaken in PsycINFO and MEDLINE.
Results: Nineteen studies were identified. Study designs were most often cross-sectional, included large sample sizes, and controlled for major individual characteristics. Mediational effects were not investigated. Statistical analysis strategies often included multilevel models. Spatial delimitations of neighborhood of residence were usually based on administrative and statistical spatial boundaries. Six neighborhood characteristics were assessed most often: neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage, neighborhood poverty, affluence, racial/ethnic composition, residential stability, and elderly concentration. Selected neighborhood characteristics were associated with depressive mood after adjusting for individual variables. These associations were generally theoretically meaningful.
Conclusions: Neighborhood variables seem to make a unique and significant contribution to the understanding of depressive mood among older adults. However, few studies investigated these associations and replication of results is needed. Several substantive neighborhood variables have been ignored or neglected in the literature. The implications of neighborhood effects for knowledge advancement and public health interventions remain unclear. Recommendations for future research are discussed.