Disadvantaged neighborhood environments may have low access to healthcare, perpetuating health disparities. Previous research has reported on associations between neighborhood disadvantage (ND) and depressive symptomology but not depression diagnoses, which may indicate access to healthcare. This study tested how ND relates to depressive symptomology and diagnosis to assess for neighborhood disparities in mental health care cross-sectionally. Data from 998 community-dwelling, Black and White individuals aged 65+ included in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Study of Aging were analyzed. We obtained participants' depressive symptomology from the Geriatric Depression Scale (n = 100) and a verified depression diagnosis from self-report and review of medication, physician-report, and/or hospital discharge summaries (n = 84). We assessed ND from US Census data, divided the sample into tertiles of ND and fit models with Generalized Estimating Equations covarying for various other variables (e.g., sex, race, physical performance, socioeconomic status, etc.). We found living in the high and mid-ND tertiles to be associated with depressive symptomology, yet ND had no significant relation to depression diagnosis. Therefore, older adults living in high and mid-disadvantaged neighborhoods may be more likely to experience depressive symptomology but not receive a diagnosis, indicating a possible disparity in mental health care.
Keywords: depression diagnosis; depressive symptomology; health disparities; healthcare access; neighborhood disadvantage.