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Residential segregation and mental health among Latinos in a nationally representative survey
  1. Carrie J Nobles1,2,
  2. Sarah E Valentine1,2,
  3. E David Zepeda3,
  4. Ye Wang4,
  5. Emily M Ahles1,
  6. Derri L Shtasel2,4,
  7. Luana Marques1,2
  1. 1Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Chelsea, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Northeastern University, Supply Chain and Information Management, D'Amore-McKim School of Business, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carrie J Nobles, Community Psychiatry PRIDE, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, 70 Everett Ave., Suite 516, Chelsea, MA 02150, USA; cnobles{at}


Background Among Latinos, living in a locality with greater Latino ethnic density may be protective for mental health, although findings vary by Latino subgroup, gender and birthplace. Although little studied, Latino residential segregation may capture different pathways linking risk and protective environmental factors to mental health than local ethnic density.

Methods This study evaluated the association between residential segregation and mental distress as measured by the Kessler-10 (K10) among Latino participants in the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS). Census data from 2000 was used to calculate metropolitan statistical area (MSA) residential segregation using the dissimilarity and isolation indices, as well as census tract ethnicity density and poverty. Latino subgroup (Puerto Rican, Mexican American, Cuban American and other Latino subgroup), gender and generation status were evaluated as moderators.

Results Among 2554 Latino participants in NLAAS, residential segregation as measured by the isolation index was associated with less mental distress (β −0.14, 95% CI −0.26 to −0.03 log(K10)) among Latinos overall after adjustment for ethnic density, poverty and individual covariates. Residential segregation as measured by the dissimilarity index was significantly associated with less mental distress among men (β −0.56, 95% CI −1.04 to −0.08) but not among women (β −0.20, 95% CI −0.45 to 0.04, p-interaction=0.019). No modification was observed by Latino subgroup or generation.

Conclusions Among Latinos, increasing residential segregation was associated with less mental distress, and this association was moderated by gender. Findings suggest that MSA-level segregation measures may capture protective effects associated with living in Latino communities for mental health.

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  • Contributors LM conceived of the hypothesis. CJN undertook the analysis with input from LM and YW. CJN drafted the manuscript with critical input from EMA, SEV, EDZ and DLS.

  • Funding Time for this manuscript was funded in part by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH K23 MH096029-01A1) awarded to LM.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Partners Healthcare Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement This study used data from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS). The majority of NLAAS data are open access and available through the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR).