J Epidemiol Community Health 59:904-908 doi:10.1136/jech.2004.027060
  • Theory and methods

Block observations of neighbourhood physical disorder are associated with neighbourhood crime, firearm injuries and deaths, and teen births

  1. Evelyn Wei1,*,
  2. Alison Hipwell2,
  3. Dustin Pardini2,
  4. Jennifer M Beyers3,
  5. Rolf Loeber2
  1. 1Late of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh
  3. 3Casey Family Programs, Seattle, State of Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor R Loeber
 Department of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 3811 O’Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA;
  • Accepted 12 June 2005


Study objective: To provide reliability information for a brief observational measure of physical disorder and determine its relation with neighbourhood level crime and health variables after controlling for census based measures of concentrated poverty and minority concentration.

Design: Psychometric analysis of block observation data comprising a brief measure of neighbourhood physical disorder, and cross sectional analysis of neighbourhood physical disorder, neighbourhood crime and birth statistics, and neighbourhood level poverty and minority concentration.

Setting: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US (2000 population = 334 563).

Participants: Pittsburgh neighbourhoods (n = 82) and their residents (as reflected in neighbourhood level statistics).

Main results: The physical disorder index showed adequate reliability and validity and was associated significantly with rates of crime, firearm injuries and homicides, and teen births, while controlling for concentrated poverty and minority population.

Conclusions: This brief measure of neighbourhood physical disorder may help increase our understanding of how community level factors reflect health and crime outcomes.


  • * Evelyn Wei has died since this work was undertaken.

  • Funding: preparation of this article was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH56630) and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (DA12237). Points of view or opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

  • Ethics approval: there were no human subjects involved in the data collection for the purpose of the study described in this article. However, The Institutional Review Board at the University of Pittsburgh approved all protocols for the large scale study of which this data collection effort was a part.