Feeling Blue: Neighborhood Context and Mental Health Outcomes Among Second-Generation Youths
Methods: Data were drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). A total of 20,745 individuals nested in 125 neighborhoods who took in-home questionnaires in grades 7-12 during the 1994-95 school year (Wave I) have been followed into young adulthood with three additional in-home interviews in 1996 (Wave II), 2001-2002 (Wave III) and 2007-08 (Wave IV). Self-reported depressive symptoms were measured using the CES-D scale. At the contextual-level we included measures of neighborhood disorder, social cohesion, concentrated disadvantage, concentrated immigration, residential stability and adult-child ratio. We fit a series of growth-curve models to estimate the impact of neighborhood contexts on individuals’ depressive symptoms while adjusting for demographic and socioeconomic confounders at the individual-level.
Results: Black and Puerto Rican youths report higher levels of depression across the four waves than non-Hispanic Whites, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, Cuban and Central/South American second-generation youth. Moving frequently while growing up (β=0.008; p<0.001) and neighborhood disorder (β=0.008; p<0.05) were associated with higher levels of depression. In contrast, immigrant concentration was negatively associated with depression (β=-0.016; p<0.01).
Implications: Findings support the hypothesis that co-ethnic communities can have a protective effect on the development of depressive symptoms among the second-generation youth. Given the importance of co-ethnic communities for the mental health of second-generation youth, the fastest growing population in the United States, community health providers and other organizations serving immigrant communities can work on strategies aimed to strengthen the social cohesion of the neighborhood and the residential stability of the immigrant families.