[Neighborhood environment quality, individual-level social capital, and depressive symptoms among adolescents]

Takashi Asakura
[Nihon Kōshū Eisei Zasshi] Japanese Journal of Public Health 2011, 58 (9): 754-67

OBJECTIVES: We aimed to develop measures to assess features of neighborhood quality and individual social capital, as well as their associations with depressive symptoms among early adolescents. To determine whether relations of depressive symptoms with neighborhood quality might be contingent upon the level of individual cognitive social capital, neighborhood-by-cognitive social capital interaction terms were examined.

METHODS: A qualitative study was conducted to elicit the perceptions of early adolescents about their neighborhood environment. Subsequently, we recruited 2,002 eighth graders and asked for responses to a self-administered questionnaire. The variables analyzed in this study were the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression scale (10 items), features of neighborhood quality, cognitive and structural individual social capital, and demographics. We adopted a generalized estimating equation regression model for the multivariate analysis. The analytic sample was 1,786 with no missing variable in the models.

RESULTS: Seven subscales were devised to assess quality features of neighborhood environments with an examination of validity and reliability: "availability of services," "good neighborhood relations," "spaces for recreation," "insecurity and danger of accidents," "dirty-looking, squalid, unclean," "civic communities," and "aesthetic look." We also developed a scale of individual cognitive social capital, which consisted of three constructs: "social trust," "reciprocity," and "social norms." Additionally, the number of social activities in which subjects participated was counted as an indicator of the structural aspect of individual social capital. On examination with the generalized estimating equation regression model, "availability of services," "insecurity and danger of accidents," "dirty-looking, squalid, unclean," and cognitive social capital were significantly associated with the CES-D scores controlling for demographics. We also found a significant interplay between "dirty-looking, squalid, unclean" and the cognitive social capital for estimating scores of depressive symptoms.

CONCLUSION: Improvement in features of neighborhood quality such as availability of services, cleanliness, and security and social order in terms of public policy as well as civic activities could contribute to promotion of mental health in adolescents. Individual cognitive social capital accumulated through experiencs of good social relationshisp in a community could also play important roles in maximizing mental health.

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