Neighborhood Disadvantage and Health

Neighborhoods are a key determinant of health. Neighborhood characteristics, such as air quality, crime rates, green space, and transportation can directly affect people’s health, as well as promote or limit access to healthcare and other social services. SPHERE researchers study the impacts of neighborhood disadvantage on a variety of health outcomes.


    Child and Adult Mental Health

    Our research examines the relationship between neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and mental health. These studies leverage a natural experiment in which refugees to Denmark were dispersed nearly randomly across the country, allowing us to examine the effects of various modifiable neighborhood-level characteristics on mental health among adults and children. The goal is to inform the development of clinical, community, and policy strategies to address place-based determinants impacting vulnerable populations.

    FundingNIA R01

    Featured Publications

    • SPHERE Research Brief: Refugee Resettlement and Mental Health. 2022 Sept.
    • Risk of psychiatric disorders for refugee children and adolescents living in disadvantaged neighborhoods: A quasi-experimental study. Foverskov et al. JAMA Pediatrics. 2022 Sept. PubMed
    • Neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage and psychiatric disorders among refugees: a population-based, quasi-experimental study in Denmark. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2022 May. Foverskov et al.  PubMed
    • Neighborhood Deprivation and Mental Health Among Immigrants to Sweden. Raphael E, White JS, Li X, Cederin K, Glymour MM, Sundquist K, Sundquist J, Hamad R. Epidemiology. 2020 May. PubMed

    CVD Risk Factors

    Although studies have shown associations between neighborhood quality and chronic disease outcomes, such associations are potentially confounded by the selection of different types of people into different neighborhood environments. SPHERE works to understand the causal effects of neighborhood disadvantage on cardiovascular risk factors using rigorous methods and large national data sets. 

    Funding: NIA R01NHLBI K08

    Featured Publications

    • The long shadow of residential racial segregation: Associations between childhood residential segregation trajectories and young adult health among Black US Americans. Gabriel L. Schwartz, Guangyi Wang, Kiarri N. Kershaw, Cyanna McGowan, Min Hee Kim, Rita Hamad. Health & Place. 2022 September. PubMed.
    • Association of Neighborhood Disadvantage With Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Events Among Refugees in Denmark. Hamad R, Öztürk B, Foverskov E, Pedersen L, Sørensen HT, Bøtker HE, White JS.  JAMA Netw Open. 2020. PubMed 
    • The association of county-level socioeconomic factors with individual tobacco and alcohol use: a longitudinal study of U.S. adults. Hamad R, Brown DM, Basu S.  BMC Public Health. 2019. PubMed
    • Long-term effects of neighbourhood deprivation on diabetes risk: quasi-experimental evidence from a refugee dispersal policy in Sweden. White JS, Hamad R, Li X, Basu S, Ohlsson H, Sundquist J, Sundquist. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2016 06; 4(6):517-24.  PubMed

    Dementia and Mortality

    Place-based factors have consistently been correlated with dementia, impaired cognitive function, and life expectancy. We again leverage a natural experiment among refugees to Denmark, allowing us to examine the effects of various modifiable neighborhood-level characteristics on dementia and mortality.

    FundingNIA R01


    • Neighborhood disadvantage and the risk of dementia and mortality among refugees to Denmark: A quasi-experimental study. Kim, Min Hee et al. Social Science Medicine-Population Health. 2022 Dec. PubMed
    • Forthcoming