Perceptions of neighborhood safety and depressive symptoms among older minority urban subsidized housing residents: the mediating effect of sense of community belonging.Aging Ment Health. 2018 12; 22(12):1564-1569.AM
Older minority subsidized housing residents represent a population that is particularly vulnerable to depression. Although research suggests that neighborhood characteristics influence older adults' mental health, it has not been explored in this target population. Drawing on social disorganization and social capital theories, this study's aim was to explore if perceptions of neighborhood safety are associated with depressive symptoms; and, whether a sense of community belonging has a mediating effect on this potential relationship.
The data are from interviews with 216 older adults (50% Black, 45% Latino/a) living in a U.S. urban subsidized housing development.
Among participants, 80% identified feeling 'very safe' during the day while 63% expressed feeling 'very safe' at night in their neighborhood. Approximately 60% possessed a stronger sense of community belonging and 26% had clinically relevant depressive symptoms. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that perceptions of feeling less safe in one's neighborhood were significantly associated with elevated levels of depressive symptoms; however, a greater sense of community belonging buffered (or had a significant mediating effect on) this relationship.
The findings suggest the importance of continued exploration of the role of social capital in relation to feelings of safety in later life.