Witnessing Community Violence in Residential Neighborhoods: A Mental Health Hazard for Urban Women

Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Center for Community Health and Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Department of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02120, USA.
Journal of Urban Health (Impact Factor: 1.9). 02/2008; 85(1):22-38. DOI: 10.1007/s11524-007-9229-8
Source: PubMed


We examined the prevalence and psychological correlates of witnessing community violence among women of low socioeconomic status living in urban neighborhoods in the northeastern United States. Three hundred eighty-six women receiving their health care at an urban community health center were sampled to assess their violence exposures. Women were asked to report the location and timing of their exposure to witnessing violent neighborhood events in which they were not participants. The Brief Symptoms Inventory was used to assess anxiety and depressive symptoms. Controlling for marital status, educational attainment, age, and intimate partner violence victimization, women who witnessed violent acts in their neighborhoods were twice as likely to experience depressive and anxiety symptoms compared to women who did not witness community violence. Central American-born women had particularly high exposures. We conclude that witnessing neighborhood violence is a pervasive experience in this urban cohort, and is associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms, even among women who are not direct participants in violence to which they are exposed. Community violence interventions must incorporate efforts to protect the mental health of adult women who witness events in their neighborhoods.

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Available from: Rosalind Wright, Oct 27, 2014
    • "In one study, after adjustment for IPV, witnessing neighborhood violence was associated with increased odds of high depressive symptoms compared with those who never witnessed crime in their communities (odds ratio [OR] = 2.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] = [1.4, 4.9]; Clark et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Both intimate partner violence and neighborhood crime have been associated with worse mental health outcomes, but less is known about cumulative effects. This association was studied in a sample of pregnant women who were enrolled in a study of disaster exposure, prenatal care, and mental and physical health outcomes between 2010 and 2012. Women were interviewed about their exposure to intimate partner violence and perceptions of neighborhood safety, crime, and disorder. Main study outcomes included symptoms of poor mental health; including depression, pregnancy-specific anxiety (PA), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Logistic regression was used to examine predictors of mental health with adjustment for confounders. Women who experienced high levels of intimate partner violence and perceived neighborhood violence had increased odds of probable depression in individual models. Weighted high cumulative (intimate partner and neighborhood) experiences of violence were also associated with increased odds of having probable depression when compared with those with low violence. Weighed high cumulative violence was also associated with increased odds of PTSD. This study provides additional evidence that cumulative exposure to violence is associated with poorer mental health in pregnant women.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Journal of Interpersonal Violence
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    • "e urban areas in the USA, of which the prevalence of witnessing community violence (WCV) amongst urban populations is considered striking. (11) An American cohort study found the majority of participants (57%) were exposed to violence greater than twelve months before the study interview, and 19% witnessed events within twelve months of the study. (12) "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: The recent events in Iraq following the 2003 war render Iraq as a country with a high level of all types of violence. Exposure to violence, as a witness or a victim, is related to a number of longer term emotional, behavioral and social problems. Objectives: To investigate the impact of witnessing and experiencing community violence and tragedy as a factor contributing to mental health disorders among Iraqi women in the city of Mosul. Methods: A population-based cross-sectional study of 500 women were selected by a multi-stage random sampling technique. Four catchment areas of primary health centers of Mosul city were selected. Community violence with nine commonly associated social, economic, emotional, physical and mental health symptoms were recorded by questionnaire. Results: The study revealed that all the participating women had a history of exposure to at least one type of community violence within the last twelve months. A mainstream consequence of exposure to community violence was transportation difficulties, loss of husband's job, and family displacement. More than half of the women were classified as having severe emotional disturbances that may evolve to mental health problems in future. Conclusion: Women are bearing the consequences of the violence in Iraq. National commitment and action needs to be taken to curb the violence which is hugely affecting the people of Iraq. Treatment programs targeted at promoting emotional resilience may be effective at preventing mental health problems.
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    • "Although employment may function as a type of personal resource, it may also create " negative spillover " from the workplace to the household, causing psychological distress (Riley & Bowen, 2005). Additionally, individuals living in less socially cohesive neighborhoods are more likely to smoke and less likely to exercise (Clark et al., 2008). "
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