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Keywords:

  • neighborhood context;
  • sex;
  • Mexican Americans;
  • depressive symptoms

Research indicates that neighborhood context can have a significant effect on the health of older adults. The evidence suggests that there may be physical health benefits afforded to Mexican Americans living in ethnically homogenous neighborhoods, despite the relatively high economic risk in such neighborhoods, but few studies have considered the effect of neighborhood ethnic density on mental health outcomes in older adults. This study evaluated the association between neighborhoods with a high proportion of Mexican Americans and depressive symptoms in very old Mexican Americans. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to examine data from Wave 5 (2004/05) of the Hispanic Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly. Subjects included 1,875 community-dwelling Mexican Americans aged 75 and older living in 386 neighborhoods in five states in the southwestern United States (Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas). Depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (α=0.88). Results showed that, in very old men, there was a significant negative association between percentage of Mexican Americans in the neighborhood and depressive symptoms (P=.01). In women, the direction of the association was the same, but the effect was not significant. These findings suggest that the proportion of Mexican Americans in the neighborhood matter more for very old Mexican American men than women. Further research may inform screening and treatment for depressive symptoms based on differences in neighborhood composition. Recommendations include culturally customized programs that offer older Mexican Americans greater mobility and access to programs and opportunities in culturally identifiable neighborhoods.