How neighborhoods and physical functioning are related: the roles of neighborhood socioeconomic status, perceived neighborhood strain, and individual health risk factors

Pamela J Feldman, Andrew Steptoe
Annals of Behavioral Medicine: a Publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine 2004, 27 (2): 91-9

BACKGROUND: Increasing attention is being paid to the impact of neighborhood residence on individual health status.

PURPOSE: This study examined pathways through which low neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) and associated subjective neighborhood characteristics may be associated with self-reported physical functioning.

METHODS: A sample of 658 adults responded to a questionnaire survey sent to residents of lower and higher SES neighborhoods. Measures of neighborhood social cohesion and problems were obtained and individual deprivation, social integration, sense of control, and financial strain were assessed with standard measures. Physical functioning was assessed with the MOS 36-item Short Form health survey.

RESULTS: Structural equation modeling analyses showed that living in a lower socioeconomic neighborhood was associated with greater perceived neighborhood strain, which, in turn, was associated with poorer physical functioning. Lower neighborhood SES and greater perceived neighborhood strain were associated with poorer physical functioning of individuals through less social integration, less perceived control, and greater financial strain. Individual deprivation was also related to less social integration, less perceived control, and greater financial strain.

CONCLUSIONS: Neighborhood SES and associated perceptions of neighborhoods are associated with physical functioning to some extent through the shaping of the social and psychological experiences of individuals living within them.

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