Living in a neighborhood perceived as dangerous may cause anxiety, anger, and depression, according to a study by UT Austin researchers.
The emotional impact may lie as much or more in the perceived threat than in actually being robbed, burglarized, or attacked. While personal victimization accounts for 10 percent of the negative associations, mistrust and a sense of powerlessness account for most.
Sociology professors Catherine Ross and John Mirowsky, also with the University’s Population Research Center, published their findings in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior article “Neighborhood Disorder, Subjective Alienation, and Distress.”
“A neighborhood perceived as unsafe creates emotional distress in large part because it evokes mistrust of others,” Ross said. “It can create a sense of powerlessness to control one’s own life, which in turn leads to high levels of anxiety, anger, and depression.”
One unexpected finding was that this environment could also tighten social networks. People are less trusting in general but feel more strongly that they have others they can rely on when in need. However, even a stronger support network gives little relief from the neighborhood’s distressing reputation.