Does Neighborhood Income Affect Teens' Mental Health?10/10/12
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Moving from an area with
a high poverty level to an area with less poverty benefits the
mental health of some teen girls, a new study contends.
Researchers looked at low-income families in public housing in
five U.S. cities -- Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles and New
York -- between 1994 and 1997. The families were randomly selected
to remain in public housing (high-poverty areas) or to receive
government-funded rental subsidies to move into private apartments
The study authors analyzed the mental health of more than 2,800
children, aged 12 to 19, in these families for between four and
"Extensive observational evidence indicates that youth in high-poverty neighborhoods exhibit poor mental health, although not all children may be affected similarly," according to background information in the study by Theresa Osypuk, of Northeastern University in Boston, and colleagues. "Racial/ethnic minority families are disproportionately more likely to live in impoverished neighborhoods, and many research studies suggest that adolescents who reside in high-poverty communities experience higher levels of mental health problems."
The researchers found that girls without any health
vulnerabilities at the start of the study were the only ones to
benefit from moving to low-poverty areas. Health vulnerabilities
refer to living in a household in which any member has a disability
or a household in which a child has any of four health or
development concerns, including behavioral or learning issues,
difficulty getting to school or playing active games, or problems
requiring special medicine or equipment.
Neither girls with health vulnerabilities nor boys without
health vulnerabilities benefited from moving to a low-poverty
The study was published online Oct. 8 in the journal
Archives of General Psychiatry.
"In conclusion, this housing policy experiment benefited the mental health of some adolescents, particularly girls in families without health vulnerabilities, but had either insignificant or harmful effects on the mental health of adolescents from families with preexisting health-related vulnerabilities, particularly boys," the authors wrote.
The American Psychiatric Association has more about
teens and mental health.
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