Methods: We used data from 2006 to 2016 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, as these were the waves in which respondents’ evaluation of their neighborhoods and biomarkers were collected. Perceived neighborhood characteristics included perceived neighborhood disorder and neighborhood social cohesion. Biological risk was assessed using nine biomarkers: systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, glycated hemoglobin, cystatin-C, obesity, and C-reactive protein. Poisson and logistic regression models were estimated to examine the association of perceived neighborhood characteristics and biological risk.
Results: Perceived neighborhood characteristics were significantly associated with biological risk. Respondents with low levels of neighborhood disorder and low levels of social cohesion (IRR=1.30, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.66) and those with high levels of neighborhood disorder and low levels of social cohesion (IRR=1.53, 95% CI: 1.26, 1.86) had an increased biological risk compared to those who lived in more cohesive neighborhoods than those with low levels of neighborhood disorder and high levels of neighborhood social cohesion. When we included additional confounding factors (i.e., hours of caregiving, type of care, smoking status), the association between perceived neighborhood characteristics and overall biological risk remained significant.
Conclusion and Implications: This study highlights the importance of neighborhood contexts in understanding caregivers’ health. Findings of this study suggests that spousal caregivers may be less influenced by neighborhood disorder when they feel that they can rely on their neighbors. Therefore, policy makers and practitioners should prioritize strengthening social ties in neighborhoods before directing resources to reduce signs of neighborhood disorder.