Where the Sidewalk Ends: Built Environment Decline and Depression

November 2020

This study utilizes panel data collected in 1986 and 1989 to analyze the relationship between the quality of neighborhood sidewalks and individuals’ levels of depression. Based on the well-established association between social isolation and negative mental health outcomes, we hypothesized that residents living in areas with poor sidewalks would report higher levels of depression due to limited walkability in their neighborhoods. We found that poorly maintained sidewalks were indeed associated with higher levels of depression (p < .001). We identified additional relationships between sidewalk quality and social integration (positive; p < .001) and between social integration and depression (inverse; p < .001). These findings carry implications for urban planners and local government finance.