Background Studies on neighbourhood characteristics and depression show equivocal results.Aims This large-scale pooled analysis examines whether urbanisation, socioeconomic, physical and social neighbourhood characteristics are associated with the prevalence and severity of depression.Method Cross-sectional design including data are from eight Dutch cohort studies (n = 32 487). Prevalence of depression, either DSM-IV diagnosis of depressive disorder or scoring for moderately severe depression on symptom scales, and continuous depression severity scores were analysed. Neighbourhood characteristics were linked using postal codes and included (a) urbanisation grade, (b) socioeconomic characteristics: socioeconomic status, home value, social security beneficiaries and non-Dutch ancestry, (c) physical characteristics: air pollution, traffic noise and availability of green space and water, and (d) social characteristics: social cohesion and safety. Multilevel regression analyses were adjusted for the individual's age, gender, educational level and income. Cohort-specific estimates were pooled using random-effects analysis.Results The pooled analysis showed that higher urbanisation grade (odds ratio (OR) = 1.05, 95% CI 1.01-1.10), lower socioeconomic status (OR = 0.90, 95% CI 0.87-0.95), higher number of social security beneficiaries (OR = 1.12, 95% CI 1.06-1.19), higher percentage of non-Dutch residents (OR = 1.08, 95% CI 1.02-1.14), higher levels of air pollution (OR = 1.07, 95% CI 1.01-1.12), less green space (OR = 0.94, 95% CI 0.88-0.99) and less social safety (OR = 0.92, 95% CI 0.88-0.97) were associated with higher prevalence of depression. All four socioeconomic neighbourhood characteristics and social safety were also consistently associated with continuous depression severity scores.Conclusions This large-scale pooled analysis across eight Dutch cohort studies shows that urbanisation and various socioeconomic, physical and social neighbourhood characteristics are associated with depression, indicating that a wide range of environmental aspects may relate to poor mental health.Declaration of interest None.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-475
Number of pages8
JournalBritish journal of psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date6 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Mental health
  • cohort studies
  • environment
  • geographic information systems
  • neighbourhood

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