Discrepancies between personal income and neighbourhood status: Effects on physical and mental health.

ABSTRACT. During their life course, older persons’ income level may become discrepant with the socio-economic status of their neighbourhood. This study examines whether and how such discrepancies affect older persons’ physical and mental health. Using baseline data from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam, 2,540 non-institutionalised persons aged 55–85years were classified based on self-reported income and neighbourhood status. Two categories defined discrepancies: discrepant-low (DL, low income in high-status neighbourhood), and discrepant-high (DH, high income in low-status neighbourhood). Both categories were compared with the same reference category: matched-high (MH, high personal and high neighbourhood income status). A range of health indicators were examined, as well as mediating effects of neighbourhood and individual characteristics. Among the 504 persons who reported a high income, 16% lived in a low-status neighbourhood (DH). Conversely, among the 757 persons living in a high-status neighbourhood, 24% had a low income (DL). The DL category mainly lived in rural areas, and the DH category predominantly in large cities. The data show discrepant income effects (DL vs. MH) on physical and cognitive ability, self-rated health, and loneliness, and discrepant neighbourhood effects (DH vs. MH) on physical and cognitive ability, depressive symptoms, and loneliness. Personal income effects were partly mediated by other personal characteristics, and neighbourhood effects were fully mediated by socio-economic neighbourhood characteristics as well as by older persons’ perceptions of their neighbourhood and their income. It is concluded that discrepancies between personal income and neighbourhood status, accrued throughout the life course, are associated with poor health.