The relationship of built environment to perceived social support and psychological distress in hispanic elders: The role of "eyes on the street"

Scott C. Brown, Craig A. Mason, Joanna L. Lombard, Frank Martinez, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Arnold R. Spokane, Frederick L. Newman, Hilda Pantin, José Szapocznik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

63 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background Research on contextual and neighborhood effects increasingly includes the built (physical) environment's influences on health and social well-being. A population-based study examined whether architectural features of the built environment theorized to promote observations and social interactions (e.g., porches, windows) predict Hispanic elders' psychological distress.MethodsCoding of built environment features of all 3,857 lots across 403 blocks in East Little Havana, Florida, and enumeration of elders in 16,000 households was followed by assessments of perceived social support and psychological distress in a representative sample of 273 low socioeconomic status (SES) Hispanic elders. Structural-equation modeling was used to assess relationships between block-level built environment features, elders' perceived social support, and psychological distress.ResultsArchitectural features of the front entrance such as porches that promote visibility from a building's exterior were positively associated with perceived social support. In contrast, architectural features such as window areas that promote visibility from a building's interior were negatively associated with perceived social support. Perceived social support in turn was associated with reduced psychological distress after controlling for demographics. Additionally, perceived social support mediated the relationship of built environment variables to psychological distress.ConclusionsArchitectural features that facilitate direct, in-person interactions may be beneficial for Hispanic elders' mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-246
Number of pages13
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume64
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2009

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Built environment
  • Hispanics/Latinos
  • Psychological distress
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Gerontology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Medicine(all)

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