SCIENCE: Being Poor In A Place With Lots Of Murder Makes You Sad

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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People who live in poor, violent urban neighborhoods are at greater risk for depression, according to a new study by University of California-Davis researchers.

Researchers found older adults who lived in neighborhoods with high murder and poverty rates were much more likely to experience depression symptoms. Neighborhood murder rates accounted for 30 percent of the relationship between neighborhood poverty and depression in older adults.

“We wanted to investigate the total effect poverty has on older adult depression, but also look at particular characteristics that might explain that relationship,” Dr. Magdalena Cerdá, the research’s senior author and a professor of emergency medicine at UC Davis, told PsyPost. “Specifically, what is it about poor neighborhoods that make people depressed? This study really highlights the role violence plays in affecting mental health.”

Ths study used data from the New York City Neighborhood and Mental Health in the Elderly Study II, a three-year study of elderly residents of New York.  Researchers examined negative factors like high homicide rates, poor perception of safety, and injuries as well as positive factors like the presence of green space, social cohesion and walk-ability.   Roughly 60 percent of respondents in the study were in poverty with incomes below $40,000.

Researchers suspect that older adults are more vulnerable to depression in violent neighborhoods because they are much less mobile and more reliant on amenities than the young. Depression affects 120 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

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