Mental Health, Deprivation, and the Neighborhood Social Environment: A Network Analysis


This study sought to identify some of the effects of neighborhood social environments, low social cohesion, and social disorder on mental health, particularly in deprived neighborhoods, through social network analysis in a community with some of the highest health and well-being inequalities in the United Kingdom.

Instead of a broad, traditional analytical model, researchers used a network analysis. They hoped it would better capture how specific nodes – such as cohesion, deprivation, and anxiety – interacted.

Researchers conducted face-to-face interviews in the northwest of England with a random probability sample. They took this sample within the region from high-deprivation and low-deprivation sub-regions relatively equal in population size. They also selected these areas based on population size, level of disadvantage, coherent shared identity, and infrastructure for policy delivery.

Results indicated that paranoia formed a significant bridge between neighborhood social environment and mental health. Meanwhile, neighborhood cohesion linked directly and negatively to anxiety. Conversely, neighborhood environments didn’t connect directly to the depression cluster, which the authors believe may indicate that social environment more directly influences anxiety and paranoia than depression or hallucination. Social disruption had the strongest influence on the environment. It also linked to each studied mental health difficulty either directly (with paranoia and anxiety) or indirectly (with depression and hallucination).

No significant differences between three levels of deprivation (low, mid, and high) were present in the overall connectivity of items, but the networks were structured differently. Likewise, no significant bridges were identified between the neighborhood and mental-health nodes for the low-deprivation group. But three bridges formed between domain clusters in the high-deprivation network, involving social cohesion and paranoia. Therefore, researchers suggested that this finding may give credence to a “tipping point,” in which a neighborhood environment contains enough negative attributes to impact the mental health of its community members.

McElroy, E., McIntyre, J. C., Bentall, R. P., Wilson, T., Holt, K., Kullu, C., Nathan, R., Kerr, A., Panagaki, K., McKeown, M., Saini, P., Gabbay, M., Corcoran, R. (2019). Mental Health, Deprivation, and the Neighborhood Social Environment: A Network Analysis. Clinical Psychological Science, 7(4), 719–734.

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