Is neighborhood racial/ethnic composition associated with depressive symptoms? The multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis

Christina Mair, Ana V. Diez Roux, Theresa L. Osypuk, Stephen R. Rapp, Teresa Seeman, Karol E. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


The racial/ethnic composition of a neighborhood may be related to residents' depressive symptoms through differential levels of neighborhood social support and/or stressors. We used the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis to investigate cross-sectional associations of neighborhood racial/ethnic composition with the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale in adults aged 45-84. The key exposure was a census-derived measure of the percentage of residents of the same racial/ethnic background in each participant's census tract. Two-level multilevel models were used to estimate associations of neighborhood racial/ethnic composition with CES-D scores after controlling for age, income, marital status, education and nativity. We found that living in a neighborhood with a higher percentage of residents of the same race/ethnicity was associated with increased CES-D scores in African American men (p < 0.05), and decreased CES-D scores in Hispanic men and women and Chinese women, although these differences were not statistically significant. Models were further adjusted for neighborhood-level covariates (social cohesion, safety, problems, aesthetic quality and socioeconomic factors) derived from survey responses and census data. Adjusting for other neighborhood characteristics strengthened protective associations amongst Hispanics, but did not change the significant associations in African American men. These results demonstrate heterogeneity in the associations of race/ethnic composition with mental health and the need for further exploration of which aspects of neighborhood environments may contribute to these associations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-550
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the Center for Integrative Approaches to Health Disparities P60 MD002249 (Diez Roux). MESA was supported by contracts N01-HC-95159 through N01-HC-95169 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . The authors thank the other investigators, the staff, and the participants of the MESA study for their valuable contributions. A full list of participating MESA investigators and institutions can be found at .

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Depressive symptoms
  • Ethnic density effect
  • Mental health
  • Neighborhoods
  • Race/ethnicity
  • USA


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