How Social Identification Buffers the Effects of Neighbourhood SES on Mental Health

Fong, P. (University of Queensland), Cruwys, T. (Australian National University), Haslam, C. (University of Queensland), Haslam, A. (University of Queensland)

A large body of research has shown that living in a poorer neighbourhood is negatively associated with individual mental health, where lower neighbourhood socio-economic status (SES) predicts worse outcomes. Previous studies have also found that perceived neighbourhood quality mediates the effects of neighbourhood SES on mental health. This model suggests that the social and physical conditions of low neighbourhood SES environments are perceived as ‘unsafe’ or ‘unpleasant’ leading to negative consequences for residents’ mental health. However, what is missing from this model is an appreciation of the potential role(s) played by social identification with others in one’s neighbourhood. To expand this model, we investigate a hypothesized dual-role of neighbourhood identification in these processes. We demonstrate, in two studies, that neighbourhood identification buffers perceived neighbourhood quality and has a direct positive effect on mental health. Data used in the first study is comprised of a large nationally representative sample (N = 14,874) and the second (N = 270) used an experimental design to investigate the causal effects of neighbourhood SES and neighbourhood identification on mental health.

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Environment and Health