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Urban built environment and depression: a multilevel analysis
  1. Sandro Galea1,2,3,
  2. Jennifer Ahern1,4,
  3. Sasha Rudenstine1,
  4. Zachary Wallace1,
  5. David Vlahov1,3,5
  1. 1Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies, New York Academy of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, USA
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY, USA
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, CA, USA
  5. 5Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, MD, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S Galea
 Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan, 1214 South University, Room 243, Ann Arbor, MI, 48104, USA;


Study objective: To assess the relations between characteristics of the neighbourhood internal and external built environment and past six month and lifetime depression.

Design and setting: Depression and sociodemographic information were assessed in a cross sectional survey of residents of New York City (NYC). All respondents were geocoded to neighbourhood of residence. Data on the quality of the built environment in 59 NYC neighbourhoods were collected from the United Status census, the New York City housing and vacancy survey, and the fiscal 2002 New York City mayor’s management report.

Main results: Among 1355 respondents, residence in neighbourhoods characterised by a poor quality built environment was associated with greater individual likelihood of past six month and lifetime depression in multilevel models adjusting for individual age, race/ethnicity, sex, and income and for neighbourhood level income. In adjusted models, persons living in neighbourhoods characterised by poorer features of the built environment were 29%–58% more likely to report past six month depression and 36%–64% more likely to report lifetime depression than respondents living in neighbourhoods characterised by better features of the built environment.

Conclusions: Living in neighbourhoods characterised by a poor quality built environment is associated with a greater likelihood of depression. Future prospective work designed to assess potential mechanisms underlying these associations may guide public health and urban planning efforts aimed at improving population mental health.

  • NYC, New York City
  • NWS, national women’s study
  • NYCHVS, New York City housing and vacancy survey
  • depression
  • urban
  • built environment
  • social environment
  • mental health

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  • Funding: funded in part by grants R01 DA 017642, MH 66081, MH 66391, DA 018061, and DA 13146-S2 from the National Institutes of Health. The sponsor played no part in study design, collection, analysis, interpretation of data, in the writing of this report, or in the decision to submit this paper for publication.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

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