Effects of neighborhood violence and perceptions of neighborhood safety on depressive symptoms of older adults

Soc Sci Med. 2013 May;85:43-9. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.02.028. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


Violent crime within a neighborhood as well as perceptions of neighborhood safety may impact the depressive symptoms experienced by community-dwelling older people. Most studies examining the influences of neighborhood characteristics on mental health have included either objective indicators or subjective perceptions and most operationalize neighborhood as a function of socioeconomic status. This study examines the effects that objectively assessed neighborhood violent crime and subjective perceptions of neighborhood safety in tandem have on depressive symptoms. The sample identified using random-digit-dialing procedures included 5688 persons aged 50-74 living in New Jersey (USA). Using multilevel structural equation analyses, we tested the hypothesis that higher levels of neighborhood violent crime and poorer perceptions of neighborhood safety are associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms, controlling for age, sex, and household income. Results supported the hypotheses. We conclude that interventions at the neighborhood level that reduce violent crime may be needed to compliment efforts at the individual level in order to reduce the depressive symptoms experienced by older people.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New Jersey / epidemiology
  • Perception*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Safety*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*