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Study objective: Research suggests that economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods confer an increased risk of depression to their residents. Little research has been reported about the association between ethnic group concentration and depression. This study investigated the association between neighbourhood poverty and neighbourhood percentage Mexican American and depressive symptoms for older Mexican Americans in the south western United States.
Design: A population based study of older non-institutionalised Mexican Americans from the baseline assessment (1993/94) of the Hispanic established population for the epidemiologic study of the elderly (H-EPESE) merged with 1990 census data.
Setting: Five south western states in the United States.
Participants: 3050 Mexican Americans aged 65 years or older.
Main results: There was a strong correlation between the percentage of neighbourhood residents living in poverty and the percentage who were Mexican American (r = 0.62; p<0.001). Percentage neighbourhood poverty and percentage Mexican American had significant and opposite effects on level of depressive symptoms among older Mexican Americans. After adjusting for demographic and other individual level factors, each 10% increase in neighbourhood population in poverty was associated with a 0.763 (95% CI 0.06 to 1.47) increase in CES-D score, while each 10% increase in Mexican American neighbourhood population was associated with a -0.548 (95% CI -0.96 to -0.13) unit decrease in CES-D score among older Mexican Americans residing in their neighbourhoods.
Conclusions: The findings suggest a sociocultural advantage conferred by high density Mexican American neighbourhoods, and suggest the need to include community level factors along with individual level factors in community based epidemiological health studies.