Living in 'Birdsville': exploring the impact of neighbourhood stigma on health

Margaret Kelaher, Deborah J Warr, Peter Feldman, Theonie Tacticos
Health & Place 2010, 16 (2): 381-8

AIMS: The stigma of living in a disadvantaged area is a consistent theme in discussions with residents of neighbourhood renewal (NR) areas in Victoria, Australia. Despite this, stigma is rarely examined explicitly in studies of neighbourhood disadvantage and health. This study will address four questions: (1) How do residents of disadvantaged areas describe their experiences of neighbourhood stigma? (2) Do experiences of neighbourhood stigma vary within neighbourhoods? (3) Is neighbourhood stigma related to health? (4) Is the relationship between neighbourhood stigma and health explained by other social factors that may contribute to poorer health?

DESIGN: Cross-sectional community interviews comparing people living in NR areas (n = 4029) to people living in other parts of the same local government areas (LGAs) (n = 1857). Recruitment was achieved using community interviewers in NR areas and stratified random sampling in LGAs.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: A neighbourhood stigma variable, self-reported health, and satisfaction with life.

RESULTS: About half (47.7%) of residents living in NR neighbourhoods compared to 9.4% of residents living elsewhere in the same LGAs felt that their neighbourhoods did not have a good reputation in surrounding areas. In NR areas, reported neighbourhood stigma was higher among people born in a non-English speaking country, receiving benefits or pensions, educated above year 10, or who reported having a disability. Reported neighbourhood stigma decreased with age. Stigma was associated with being in fair/poor health status (OR = 1.33, 1.06-1.89) and life satisfaction (OR = 0.66, 0.55-0.8).

CONCLUSIONS: Neighbourhood stigma may be a useful addition to the portfolio of variables that describe 'place' and its relationship with health.

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