Perceived Neighborhood Safety, Social Cohesion, and Psychological Health of Older Adults

Gerontologist. 2018 Jan 18;58(1):196-206. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw187.


Purpose of the study: We aimed to investigate the interactive effects of perceived neighborhood safety and social cohesion on the psychological health of older adults with and without functional impairments.

Design and methods: This cross-sectional study included 13,897 community-dwelling older adults (aged 65 years and older) from the 2011-2012 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). Hypotheses were tested using weighted moderated ordinary least squared regression analysis.

Results: Perceived neighborhood safety was significantly associated with psychological health regardless of respondents' physical functioning, although the effect was greater among older adults with functional limitations. Perceived social cohesion, however, was only significantly related to psychological health among those with functional limitations. Among physically impaired respondents, social cohesion buffered the ill-effect of an unsafe neighborhood on psychological health.

Implications: Findings suggest that efforts to promote perceived neighborhood safety and social cohesion are essential to the well-being of older adults. Special attention should be paid to older adults with functional limitations, who appear to be more vulnerable to the negative effects of neighborhood environments.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Environmental Health
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Independent Living* / psychology
  • Independent Living* / statistics & numerical data
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Safety*
  • Social Support*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology