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Neighbourhood Conditions and Old-Age Depression

What role do childhood experiences play in how individuals react to their environment?
Source: Müge Ayma

As people reach old age, they may not be able to move around as much, which confines them to their immediate surroundings. This makes older people susceptible to neighbourhood stressors and dependent on local resources. Existing longitudinal studies have found an elevated risk of depression among individuals living in areas with neighbourhood nuisances, i.e., higher poverty, more neighbourhood problems (e.g., crime, noise, littering) or higher air pollution. Adding the component of one’s childhood experiences for life course development of mental health, this may modify how one’s neighbourhood affects subsequent depression, but this link is not well studied. Therefore, Gergő Baranyi and colleagues used data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to assess longitudinal associations of neighbourhood nuisances and access to services with depression among older European adults.

With data on over 10,000 older adults from 13 European countries over a 10-year period, they found that living in an area with good access to services (public transportation, pharmacy, medical care, and supermarkets) reduced the odds of developing depression by 22 per cent. Those exposed to neighbourhood nuisances had a 36 per cent increased chance of developing depression. Regarding the impact of childhood experiences, they found that when older adults grow up in better circumstances, they benefitted more from living in an area with good access to services. However, this group had a higher risk of developing depression if they were in an area with neighbourhood nuisances. The authors suggest providing access to neighbourhood amenities and public transportation, for example, as ways to support healthy ageing.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Emily Lines