Associations between neighborhood-level violence and individual mental disorders: Results from the World Mental Health surveys in five Latin American cities

C. Benjet, L. Sampson, S. Yu, R. C. Kessler, A. Zaslavsky, S. Evans-Lacko, S. S. Martins, L. H. Andrade, S. Aguilar-Gaxiola, A. Cía, M. E. Medina-Mora, J. C. Stagnaro, M. Y.Torres de Galvez, M. C. Viana, S. Galea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Rapidly urbanizing areas of Latin America experience elevated but unevenly distributed levels of violence. Extensive research suggests that individual exposure to violence is associated with higher odds of both internalizing (anxiety and mood) and externalizing (substance and intermittent explosive) mental disorders. Less research, however, has focused on how neighborhood-level violence, as an indicator of broader neighborhood contexts, might relate to the mental health of residents, independently of an individual's personal exposure. We used multilevel analyses to examine associations of neighborhood-level violence with individual-level past-year mental disorders, controlling for individual-level violence exposure. We used data from 7,251 adults nested in 83 neighborhoods within five large Latin American cities as part of the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. Accounting for individual-level violence exposure, living in neighborhoods with more violence was associated with significantly elevated odds of individual-level internalizing disorders, but not externalizing disorders. Caution should be exercised when making causal inferences regarding the effects of neighborhood-level violence in the absence of experimental interventions. Nevertheless, neighborhood context, including violence, should be considered in the study of mental disorders. These findings are particularly relevant for rapidly urbanizing areas with high levels of violence, such as Latin America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112607
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume282
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Crime
  • Externalizing disorder
  • Internalizing disorder
  • Megacities
  • Neighborhood
  • Psychiatric disorder
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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