The Relationship between Neighborhood Environment and Child Mental Health in Japanese Elementary School Students

Rikuya Hosokawa, Toshiki Katsura
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2020 July 29, 17 (15)
Limited research has examined the relationship between neighborhood environment and mental health outcomes in elementary school students (middle childhood). In countries with high relative poverty, little is known about how neighborhood conditions are related to children's health after controlling for family socioeconomic status; thus, it is necessary to distinguish the particular neighborhood characteristics relevant to behavioral risk in children, independent of socioeconomic position. Using a self-report survey completed by parents, we assessed neighborhood environment characteristics, children's behavioral outcomes, and family socioeconomic status in fourth grade students from Nagoya, in Aichi prefecture, Japan ( n = 695). A multiple linear regression was conducted to evaluate to what extent neighborhood characteristics predict child behaviors, after adjusting for socioeconomic variables. Greater aesthetic quality, walkability, accessibility of healthy foods, safety, and social cohesion were inversely linked to children's behavioral problems and positively linked to social competence, suggesting that quality of living environment may affect behavioral outcomes in children, even after controlling for socioeconomic factors. Developing a quality environment that matches these characteristics may minimize the negative impact of a family's socioeconomic distress and is likely to aid socioeconomically disadvantaged parents and their children. Thus, policies and programs that enhance the neighborhood environment for socioeconomically disadvantaged families should be promoted.

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