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Does neighbourhood identification buffer against the effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on self-harm?

McIntyre, Jason, Elahi, Anam, Latham, Cameron, Mullholland, Helen, Haines-Delmont, Alina ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6989-0943, Saini, Pooja and Taylor, Peter J (2021) Does neighbourhood identification buffer against the effects of socioeconomic disadvantage on self-harm? Journal of Affective Disorders, 294. pp. 857-863. ISSN 0165-0327

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Abstract

Background: Socioeconomic disadvantage and lack of group belonging (i.e., social identity) have been linked to poor mental health. However, no research has investigated the relationship between neighbourhood identity and self-harm, nor whether identifying with one's neighbourhood can mitigate the effects of economic stress on self-harm. Methods: Pre-registered secondary data analysis of a large (N = 3412) community health survey conducted in disadvantaged areas of North West England. Results: Despite the sample having a relatively high and therefore restricted level of disadvantage, individual and geographic indicators of disadvantage, as well as neighbourhood identification, were unique and strong predictors of self-harm thoughts and behaviours across several analyses. Specifically, experiencing disadvantage and disidentification predicted significantly higher odds of self-harm and self-harm thoughts. No consistent interactive effects emerged. Limitations: The cross-sectional design limits firm conclusions regarding causal effects of neighbourhood identity and disadvantage on self-harm. However, causal direction is supported by past research and theory. The data is self-report, which is subject to response bias. The sample was also recruited from a region of the UK with low numbers of residents from ethnic minority backgrounds. Conclusions: The results are consistent with past research indicating an association between social identity and better mental health, but for the first time extend these effects to self-harm. The findings demonstrate the importance of considering social and economic factors when attempting to prevent suicide and understand and treat self-harm thoughts.

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