A global study on the influence of neighborhood contextual factors on adolescent health

Kristin Mmari, Hannah Lantos, Robert W. Blum, Heena Brahmbhatt, Adesola Sangowawa, Chunyan Yu, Sinead Delany-Moretlwe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Purpose This study uses data collected as part of the Well-Being of Adolescents in Vulnerable Environments study to (1) compare the perceptions of neighborhood-level factors among adolescents across five different urban sites; (2) examine the associations between factors within the physical and social environments; and (3) examine the influence of neighborhood-level factors on two different health outcomes - violence victimization in the past 12 months and ever smoked.

Methods Across five urban sites (Baltimore, New Delhi, Johannesburg, Ibadan, and Shanghai), 2,320 adolescents aged 15-19 years completed a survey using audio computer-assisted self-interview technology. To recruit adolescents, each site used a respondent-driven sampling method, which consisted of selecting adolescents as "seeds" to serve as the initial contacts for recruiting the entire adolescent sample. All analyses were conducted with Stata 13.1 statistical software, using complex survey design procedures. To examine associations between neighborhood-level factors and among our two outcomes, violence victimization and ever smoked, bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted.

Results Across sites, there was great variability in how adolescents perceived their neighborhoods. Overall, adolescents from Ibadan and Shanghai held the most positive perceptions about their neighborhoods, whereas adolescents from Baltimore and Johannesburg held the poorest. In New Delhi, despite females having positive perceptions about their safety and sense of social cohesion, they had the highest sense of fear and the poorest perceptions about their physical environment. The study also found that one of the most consistent neighborhood-level factors across sites and outcomes was witnessing community violence, which was significantly associated with smoking among adolescents in New Delhi and Johannesburg and with violence victimization across nearly every site except Baltimore. No other neighborhood-level factor exerted greater influence.

Conclusions This study confirms the important associations between perceptions of a neighborhood and adolescent health. At the same time, it demonstrates that not all neighborhood-level factors are associated with adolescent health outcomes in the same way across different urban contexts. Further longitudinal research is needed to examine the direction of causation between adolescent health neighborhood contexts and health outcomes and the reasons for why different urban contexts may exert varying levels of influence on the health of adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S13-S20
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Adolescents
  • Neighborhood effects
  • Physical environment
  • Urban health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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