Associations between neighborhood characteristics, well-being and health vary over the life course
Eibich P., Krekel C., Demuth I., Wagner GG.
© 2016 S. Karger AG, Basel.Background: Neighborhood characteristics are important determinants of individual health and well-being. For example, characteristics such as noise and pollution affect health directly, while other characteristics affect health and well-being by either providing resources (e.g. social capital in the neighborhood), which individuals can use to cope with health problems, or limiting the use thereof (e.g. crime). This also suggests that there might be age differentials in the impact of these characteristics, since individuals at different stages of life might need different resources. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence on age differentials in associations between well-being, health, and neighborhood characteristics. Objective: This paper studies associations between a wide range of neighborhood characteristics with the health and well-being of residents of the greater Berlin area. In particular, we focus on differences in the effects between younger (aged 20-35) and older (aged 60+) residents. Methods: We used data from the Berlin Aging Study II (312 younger and 993 older residents of the Berlin metropolitan area in Germany). We used survey data on health and well-being, combined these with subjective perceptions of the neighborhood, and geo-referenced indicators on the neighborhood, e.g. amenities (public transport, physicians, and hospitals). Results: The results show that access to public transportation is associated with better outcomes on all measures of health and well-being, and social support is associated with higher life satisfaction and better mental health. There are considerable differences between both age groups: while the associations between access to public transport and health and well-being are similar for both age groups, neighborhood social capital shows stronger associations for older residents. However, the difference is not always statistically significant. Conclusion: Having access to services is associated with better health and well-being regardless of age. Local policy makers should focus on lowering barriers to mobility in order to improve the health and well-being of the population. Since the social capital of a neighborhood is associated with better health and well-being among older residents, investments that increase social capital (e.g. community centers) might be warranted in neighborhoods with higher shares of older residents.