The “¡Caminemos!” Study: Association Between Perceived Neighborhood Walkability Characteristics and Depressive Symptoms in Older Latinos

Senior Hispanic adults who perceive their neighborhoods as safer — and thus, more walkable — are also less likely to experience depressive symptoms, according to a study published online in October in the Journal of Aging and Health.

With previous research finding that senior Hispanics face both higher risks for depression as well as greater barriers to treatment, the study’s findings highlight an additional way to positively impact mental health among an already vulnerable population, said study co-author Rosalba Hernandez, PhD, an assistant professor within the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. To conduct the study, Hernandez and her colleagues interviewed Hispanic adults ages 60 and older who were participating in a physical activity intervention at 27 senior centers in the Los Angeles area. Interview data was collected at the start of the study, one year later and at the 24-month mark.

“We had (previously) focused on depressive symptoms and individual factors,” Hernandez told The Nation’s Health. “This time, we were interested in finding other macrosystems that can inform someone’s psychological well-being and if there’s something we can do in a larger context that can alleviate mental health problems, particularly in a population that has a lot of stigma around mental health.”

Among the 570-person study sample, researchers found that nearly 28 percent screened positive for elevated depressive symptoms at the beginning of the study. However, study participants that perceived their neighborhoods as having lower rates of crime and thus greater walkability were at lower odds of experiencing elevated depressive symptoms. Higher walkability scores were also “marginally” associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms.

Population of focus: Elderly Latinos

Links to resource:

Date: 2014

Journal: Journal of Aging and Health