Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Depression, Loneliness, and Health in an Adverse Living Environment: A Study of Bedspace Residents in Hong Kong

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Depression, Loneliness, and Health in an Adverse Living Environment: A Study of Bedspace Residents in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

Issues concerning deleterious effects of an adverse living environment, characterized by crowded, noisy, and dirty conditions, have been debatable. One way out of this debate is delineating paths through which the living environment affects outcome variables. The resident's perception of the environment and social relation may lead to such paths. While past studies tended to demonstrate the mediating role of social support, they employed samples of college students only. By contrast, the present study investigates the mediating processes with a sample of 122 bedspace residents in Hong Kong. Results of hierarchical modeling illustrate that the adverse living environment affected the resident's psychosocial well-being indirectly. Notably, the objective living environment was related to the resident's perception of the environment, which in turn was related to social relations, characterized by social problems and social support. The perception and social relations were then related to the resident's depressive affect and loneliness. However, the adverse living environment did not have significant direct and mediated effects on the resident's self-assessed health. Besides, this study reveals that stressful status, including having a criminal record, being divorced, and the duration of unemployment, tended to be deleterious to the resident's psychosocial and physical well-being.

Adverse living environments still remain in many cities in the world. Millions of people, with limited choice, can live only in crowded places in slum areas, prisons, nursery homes, retention camps for refugees, and so on (Goldstein, Novick, & Schaefer, 1990). Residents of congested housing in cities, which not only include such a densely populated city as Hong Kong (Chan, 1994) and those in India (Lepore, Evans, & Palsane, 1991), but also those in advanced industrialized countries (Lepore, Evans, & Schneider, 1991, 1992), often have to endure further adverse living conditions including noisy and dirty environments (Nivison & Eadresen, 1993). These adverse conditions, possibly impairing the residents' physical and psychosocial health (Cohen et al.,1985; Lepore, Evans, & Schneider, 1991), can be costly to society, at least in debilitating its labor force and increasing its medical subsidy and social service expenditure. However, the adverse effects, as examined by previous studies (Kryter, 1990; Paulus, 1988) are equivocal (Shams & Jackson, 1994). Also, mechanisms in which these adverse living environments impair the resident have not yet been transparent (Cohen et al., 1985). This uncertainty poses a problem to designing better living conditions. Delineating paths of plausible deleterious impacts of adverse living conditions is thus essential.

Impacts of adverse living environments such as crowding and noise on residents' physical and psychosocial well-being (Kryter,1990; Paulus,1988) may transmit through mediating processes, such as residents' perception of the environment and its impediment to social relation (Lepore, Evans, & Palsane, 1991; Stansfeld, Shapp, Gallacher, & Babisch, 1993). For instance, perceptual variables such as annoyance and sensitivity toward noise are associated with the resident's physical and mental illness (Kryter, 1990; Nivison & Eadresen, 1990; Stansfeld et al., 1993). Conversely, satisfaction with the housing environment seems to maintain the resident's good health (Fuller et al., 1993). Moreover, discomfort with the housing environment contributes to the resident's depression (Smith, Smith, Kearns, & Abbott, 1993). These perceptual variables mediate effects of the living environment when they stem from objective living conditions (Stansfeld et al., 1993). Another important mediating mechanism refers to the role of social problems which is positively related to crowding, and social support which is negatively related to crowding (Lepore, Evans, & Palsane, 1991). Abundant evidence shows that social problems, including quarrels and other negative social relations, engender and social support attenuates the individual's depression (Bazargan & Hamm-Baugh, 1995). …

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