Did the UK COVID-19 Lockdown Modify the Influence of Neighbourhood Disorder on Psychological Distress? Evidence From a Prospective Cohort Study
Life sciences & Biomedicine
Science & Technology
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AbstractNational lockdown in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted the mobility of residents and increased time spent in their residential neighbourhoods. This is a unique opportunity to understand how an exogenous factor that reduces mobility may influence the association between neighbourhood social environment and mental health. This study investigates whether the COVID-19 lockdown may modify the effect of neighbourhood disorder on psychological distress. Methods: We tracked changes in psychological distress, using the UK household longitudinal survey across the pre-COVID and lockdown periods in 16,535 adults. Neighbourhood disorder was measured along two subscales: social stressors and property crime. Fixed-effects regression was used to evaluate whether the widespread reduction in mobility modifies the association between the subscales of neighbourhood disorder and psychological distress. Results: The effect of neighbourhood social stressors on psychological distress was stronger in the lockdown period compared to the pre-COVID period. Compared to the pre-COVID period, the effect of being in neighbourhoods with the highest social stressors (compared to the lowest) on psychological distress increased by 20% during the lockdown. Meanwhile, the effect of neighbourhood property crime on mental health did not change during the lockdown. Conclusion: The sudden loss of mobility as a result of COVID-19 lockdown is a unique opportunity to address the endogeneity problem as it relates to mobility and locational preferences in the study of neighbourhood effects on health. Vulnerable groups who have limited mobility are likely more sensitive to neighbourhood social stressors compared to the general population.