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Neighborhoods and mental health: exploring ethnic density, poverty, and social cohesion among Asian Americans and Latinos

Seunghye Hong, Wei Zhang, Emily Walton
Social Science & Medicine 2014, 111: 117-24
24769491
This study examines the associations of neighborhood ethnic density and poverty with social cohesion and self-rated mental health among Asian Americans and Latinos. Path analysis is employed to analyze data from the 2002-2003 National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS) and the 2000 U.S. Census (N = 2095 Asian Americans living in N = 259 neighborhoods; N = 2554 Latinos living in N = 317 neighborhoods). Findings reveal that neighborhood ethnic density relates to poor mental health in both groups. Social cohesion partially mediates that structural relationship, but is positively related to ethnic density among Latinos and negatively related to ethnic density among Asian Americans. Although higher neighborhood poverty is negatively associated with mental health for both groups, the relationship does not hold in the path models after accounting for social cohesion and covariates. Furthermore, social cohesion fully mediates the association between neighborhood poverty and mental health among Latinos. This study highlights the necessity of reconceptualizing existing theories of social relationships to reflect complex and nuanced mechanisms linking neighborhood structure and mental health for diverse racial and ethnic groups.

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