PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2019, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (2): 283-295.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2019.02.011

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Exploring neighborhood environmental effects on mental health:A case study in Guangzhou, China

Yingzhi QIU1,2(), Hongsheng CHEN3, Zhigang LI4, Ruoyu WANG1, Ye LIU1,2,*(), Xiaofei QIN1   

  1. 1. School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    2. Guangdong Key Laboratory for Urbanization and Geo-simulation, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    3. School of Architecture, Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China
    4. School of Urban Design, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
  • Received:2018-04-26 Revised:2018-12-19 Online:2019-02-28 Published:2019-02-28
  • Contact: Ye LIU;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No. 41871140, 41422103 and 41771167.


When China enters the "urban era," the environmental and social problems brought about by rapid urbanization have posed a serious threat to urban residents' physical and mental health outcomes. Urban health problems have become an important concern both in academic circles and in the public sphere. As an indispensable dimension of health, mental health is an important prerequisite for achieving "good life." In Western urban studies, the last decade has seen an acceleration in research examining the close relationship between urban environment and mental health outcomes. A growing body of literature has reported significant impact of neighborhood characteristics on residents' mental health, such as housing condition, green space, and neighborhood social support, among others. In China, however, mechanism of mental health associated with neighborhood environment remains poorly understood. This article systematically explores the direct impact of neighborhood environment on mental health, which helps to promote the "Healthy City" and new urbanization strategies. Based on the data collected from a questionnaire survey involving 23 neighborhoods and 1,150 respondents in Guangzhou City, this research employed the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and multilevel linear regression models to examine the surveyed residents' mental health and its determinants. It particularly focused on the extent to which and the ways in which neighborhood built and social environments influence their residents’ mental health status. The results indicate that mental health status of residents living in different neighborhoods was significantly different. Multilevel modeling shows that residents' mental health is influenced by both individual and neighborhood factors. Regarding individual variables, low educational level is negatively related to mental health. Residents with housing property rights have better mental health outcomes than those without housing property rights. In addition, good physical health condition contributes to better mental health status. After controlling for individual variables, the impact of neighborhood environment is still significant. For variables related to the built environment, residents living in neighborhoods with abundant facilities and parks around have better mental health outcomes. With regard to neighborhood social environment, high neighborhood interactions and adequate community groups lead to better mental health status, but community disputes can negatively affect mental health of residents. This study confirms that neighborhood characteristics have significant influence on mental health in Guangzhou City, China, which provides valuable implications for policies and practices seeking to promote residents’ mental health. First, facilities and parks should be taken into consideration in neighborhood design and city planning. Another useful approach to improving mental health is for community committees and residents to make joint efforts to build a cohesive and supportive neighborhood, including enriching community groups and strengthening neighborhood interactions.

Key words: neighborhood environment, neighborhood effects, mental health, multilevel linear model, Guangzhou City