The Importance of Social Context

Neighborhood Stressors, Stress-Buffering Mechanisms, and Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Disorders

Published in: Social science and medicine, v. 65, no. 9, Nov. 2007, p. [1867]-1881

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2007

by Susan Stockdale, Kenneth B. Wells, Lingqi Tang, Thomas R. Belin, Lily Zhang, Cathy D. Sherbourne

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This study examines the relationship among neighborhood stressors, stress-buffering mechanisms, and likelihood of alcohol, drug, and mental health (ADM) disorders in adults from 60 US communities (n=12,716). Research shows that larger support structures may interact with individual support factors to affect mental health, but few studies have explored buffering effects of these neighborhood characteristics. The authors test a conceptual model that explores effects of neighborhood stressors and stress-buffering mechanisms on ADM disorders. Using Health Care for Communities with census and other data, they found a lower likelihood of disorders in neighborhoods with a greater presence of stress-buffering mechanisms. Higher neighborhood average household occupancy and churches per capita were associated with a lower likelihood of disorders. Cross-level interactions revealed that violence-exposed individuals in high crime neighborhoods are vulnerable to depressive/anxiety disorders. Likewise, individuals with low social support in neighborhoods with high social isolation (i.e., low-average household occupancy) had a higher likelihood of disorders. If replicated by future studies using longitudinal data, our results have implications for policies and programs targeting neighborhoods to reduce ADM disorders.

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