Neighborhood social cohesion and posttraumatic stress disorder in a community-based sample: findings from the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2012 Dec;47(12):1899-906. doi: 10.1007/s00127-012-0506-9. Epub 2012 Apr 13.


Purpose: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common and debilitating. Although research has identified individual-level risk factors for PTSD, the role of macro-social factors in PTSD etiology remains unknown. This study tests whether perceived neighborhood social cohesion (NSC), measured at the both the individual and neighborhood levels, plays a role in determining past-year risk of PTSD among those exposed to trauma.

Methods: Data (n = 1,221) were obtained from an ongoing prospective epidemiologic study in the city of Detroit. Assessment of traumatic event exposure and PTSD was consistent with DSM-IV criteria. Generalized estimating equations (GEE) and logistic regression models were used to estimate the association of neighborhood-level perceived NSC with the risk of PTSD, adjusting for individual-level perceptions of NSC and other covariates.

Results: The odds of past-year PTSD were significantly higher among those residing in a neighborhood with low social cohesion compared to high (OR = 2.44, 95 % CI: 1.58, 3.78), independent of individual sociodemographic characteristics, number of traumas, and individual-level perceptions of NSC. The odds of past-year PTSD were not significantly associated with individual-level perceptions of NSC.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that social context shapes risk of PTSD and suggest that changing the social context may shift vulnerability to this disorder.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Change Events
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • Urban Population
  • Young Adult