Why Gentrification and Mental Health Go Hand in Hand

Why Gentrification and Mental Health Go Hand in Hand
Sungwoo Lim, Pui Ying Chan, Sarah Walters, Gretchen Culp, Mary Huynh, L. Hannah Gould
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
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A quarter of New York City neighborhoods experienced gentrification between 1990 and 2014. Revitalization that stems from new economic development often brings increased housing costs, increased rent burden, and resulting displacement of a neighborhood’s original residents. How does displacement from gentrifying neighborhoods affect health outcomes? A recent study sought to determine the association between displacement and health care access and mental health among original residents of gentrifying neighborhoods in New York City. The authors analyzed 2005–14 American Community Survey data to identify gentrifying and nongentrifying, poor neighborhoods and 2006–14 Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System data to get records of emergency department visits and hospitalizations. The authors defined gentrifying neighborhoods as having low initial rankings of median household income, median rental price, and proportion of college graduates in 2005 and high rankings of growth in these categories. They defined nongentrifying, poor neighborhoods as having both low initial and growth ratings. The study compared the rates of emergency department visits and hospitalizations postbaseline with residents who were displaced and residents who remained in their neighborhoods using inverse probability of treatment weight and regression analysis. It is one of the first studies to evaluate the effect of residential displacement on health.

Key findings

  • Compared with residents who stayed in gentrifying neighborhoods, displaced residents who moved to nongentrifying, poor neighborhoods had significantly higher rates of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and mental health–related visits for about five years after displacement.
  • Displaced residents were more likely to make emergency department visits or be hospitalized for drug- or alcohol-related issues.
  • The sensitivity analysis showed similar baseline characteristics between residents who stayed in gentrifying neighborhoods and those who remained in nongentrifying, poor neighborhoods.