Am J Community Psychol 2016 09 30;58(1-2):80-8. Epub 2016 Aug 30.
Department of Health Promotion, Education and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA.
Limited research has explored how specific elements of physical and social environments influence mental health indicators such as perceived stress, or whether such associations are moderated by gender. This study examined the relationship between selected neighborhood characteristics and perceived stress levels within a primarily low-income, older, African-American population in a mid-sized city in the Southeastern U.S. Residents (n = 394; mean age=55.3 years, 70.9% female, 89.3% African American) from eight historically disadvantaged neighborhoods completed surveys measuring perceptions of neighborhood safety, social cohesion, aesthetics, and stress. Multivariate linear regression models examined the association between each of the three neighborhood characteristics and perceived stress. Greater perceived safety, improved neighborhood aesthetics, and social cohesion were significantly associated with lower perceived stress. These associations were not moderated by gender. These findings suggest that improving social attributes of neighborhoods may have positive impacts on stress and related benefits for population health. Future research should examine how neighborhood characteristics influence stress over time.