Tomita A, Labys CA, Burns JK. A multilevel analysis of the relationship between neighborhood social disorder and depressive symptoms: evidence from the South African National Income Dynamics Study. The American journal of orthopsychiatry. 2015 Jan;85(85). 56-62. PMID: 25642654 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC4322132 NIHMSID: NIHMS656028.
The apartheid regime that governed South Africa from 1948-1994 established spatial segregation that is understood to have contributed to the magnitude of neighborhood social disorder in the postapartheid era. Although a number of neighborhood social disorder characteristics, such as perceived violence and crime in the community, are prominent issues in South Africa, the extent to which these perceived spatial attributes are linked to depression is unknown at the population level. Multilevel modeling of data from the second wave of the South African National Income Dynamics Study (SA-NIDS) was utilized to examine the relationship between depressive symptomatology and neighborhood social disorder as indicated by the perceived frequency of violent, criminal and illicit activities in the community. Depressive symptomatology was assessed using the 10-item version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. A cut-off score of 10 or higher was used to indicate the presence of significant depressive symptomatology. Results showed that perception of neighborhood social disorder was independently associated with significant levels of depressive symptomatology. Gender, race or ethnicity, perceived health status, and education were significant for individual-level covariates of depression. Community intervention strategies that reduce the risk of neighborhood disorganization and emphasize positive social norms in the neighborhood are warranted. Taking into account the residential deracialization of a country transitioning from apartheid to nonracial democracy, a longitudinal spatial study design assessing the dynamics between depression and the aforementioned perceptions of neighborhood attributes may also be warranted.