Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Income inequality within urban settings and depressive symptoms among adolescents
  1. Roman Pabayo1,2,
  2. Erin C Dunn3,4,5,
  3. Stephen E Gilman2,6,
  4. Ichiro Kawachi2,
  5. Beth E Molnar7
  1. 1University of Nevada, Reno, School of Community Health Sciences, Reno, Nevada, USA
  2. 2Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  5. 5Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6Health Behavior Branch, Division of Intramural Population Health Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, Maryland, USA
  7. 7Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Roman Pabayo, School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada, Reno, 1664 North Virginia Street, Reno, NV 89557, USA; rpabayo{at}


Background Although recent evidence has shown that area-level income inequality is related to increased risk for depression among adults, few studies have tested this association among adolescents.

Methods We analysed the cross-sectional data from a sample of 1878 adolescents living in 38 neighbourhoods participating in the 2008 Boston Youth Survey. Using multilevel linear regression modelling, we: (1) estimated the association between neighbourhood income inequality and depressive symptoms, (2) tested for cross-level interactions between sex and neighbourhood income inequality and (3) examined neighbourhood social cohesion as a mediator of the relationship between income inequality and depressive symptoms.

Results The association between neighbourhood income inequality and depressive symptoms varied significantly by sex, with girls in higher income inequality neighbourhood reporting higher depressive symptom scores, but not boys. Among girls, a unit increase in Gini Z-score was associated with more depressive symptoms (β=0.38, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.47, p=0.01) adjusting for nativity, neighbourhood income, social cohesion, crime and social disorder. There was no evidence that the association between income inequality and depressive symptoms was due to neighbourhood-level differences in social cohesion.

Conclusions The distribution of incomes within an urban area adversely affects adolescent girls' mental health; future work is needed to understand why, as well as to examine in greater depth the potential consequences of inequality for males, which may have been difficult to detect here.


Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.