Higher childhood neighborhood quality (CNQ) and childhood friendliness (CF) scores have been shown to be significantly associated with a lower risk for the development of depressive symptoms in adults. Results of the study were published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

The investigators sought to examine the longitudinal associations of CNQ and CF with the risk for later-life depressive symptoms in a sample of individuals from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS). Data from CHARLS—a nationally representative survey of the general population in China ≥45 years of age and their spouses—were analyzed. The 10-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D10) was used to measure depressive symptom scores.

A total of 13,354 participants, all of whom had completed data available with respect to age, gender, body mass index, marital status, level of education, family financial situation, exercise, smoking, drinking, residing in rural vs urban area, and chronic diseases, were enrolled in the study. The mean participant age was 57.8 ± 7.8 years; 7054 of the enrollees were female.

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Individuals with higher CNQ scores had a statistically significantly lower risk for depressive symptoms compared with those with lower CNQ scores (odds ratio [OR], 0.93; 95% CI, 0.92 to 0.93; P <.001), with this association remaining similar and continuing to be significant following adjustment for covariates (OR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.91 to 0.95; P <.001).

Additionally, those study participants with higher CF scores had a statistically significantly lower risk for depressive symptoms compared with those with lower CF scores (adjusted OR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.96 to 0.98; P <.001), with these results remaining similar as well after adjusting for covariates (OR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.96 to 0.98; P <.001).

An interaction was observed between level of education and CNQ score, as well as between education level and CF score (P <.001 for both) with respect to the progress of depressive symptoms, suggesting that education attainment mediates the links between CNQ and CF with the risk for development of depressive symptoms.

A major limitation of the current study was the fact that such other risk factors as genotypes and lifetime traumatic events were unavailable in this analysis.

The investigators concluded that further studies are warranted, which include more related risk factors. Improved understanding of the associations between childhood environment and depressive symptoms in adults with various backgrounds and ages need to be considered as well.


Chen H, Xiong P, Chen L, Hao G.J. Childhood neighborhood quality, friendship, and risk of depressive symptoms in adults: the China health and retirement longitudinal study. Affect Disord. 2020;276:732-737.