Determinants of mental health and self-rated health: a model of socioeconomic status, neighborhood safety, and physical activity

Am J Public Health. 2014 Sep;104(9):1734-41. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302003. Epub 2014 Jul 17.


Objectives: We investigated the underlying mechanisms of the influence of socioeconomic status (SES) on mental health and self-rated health (SRH), and evaluated how these relationships might vary by race/ethnicity, age, and gender.

Methods: We analyzed data of 44 921 adults who responded to the 2009 California Health Interview Survey. We used a path analysis to test effects of SES, neighborhood safety, and physical activity on mental health and SRH.

Results: Low SES was associated with greater neighborhood safety concerns, which were negatively associated with physical activity, which was then negatively related to mental health and SRH. This model was similar across different racial/ethnic and gender groups, but mean levels in the constructs differed across groups.

Conclusions: SES plays an important role in SRH and mental health, and this effect is further nuanced by race/ethnicity and gender. Identifying the psychological (neighborhood safety) and behavioral (physical activity) factors that influence mental health and SRH is critical for tailoring interventions and designing programs that can improve overall health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Ethnicity
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / ethnology
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Safety
  • Self Report*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors