Housing Mobility Interventions Affect Boys, Girls Differently

(HealthDay News) — Interventions to encourage moving out of high-poverty neighborhoods are associated with increased rates of mental disorders in adolescent boys, but decreased rates of disorders among girls, according to a study published in the March 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Ronald C. Kessler, PhD, from Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from The Moving to Opportunity Demonstration (1994–1998), which randomized 4,604 volunteer public housing families (with 3,689 children) to two housing mobility intervention groups. Participants received traditional vouchers that were geographically unrestricted (1,081 participants); low-poverty vouchers to move to low-poverty neighborhoods (1,430); or no intervention (1,178). Follow-up occurred 10–15 years later.

The researchers found that, of the 2,872 adolescents who were interviewed at follow-up, boys in the low-poverty voucher group had significantly increased rates of major depression (7.1 vs. 3.5%; odds ratio [OR], 2.2); posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; 6.2 vs. 1.9%; OR, 3.4); and conduct disorder (6.4 vs. 2.1%; OR, 3.1). Compared to the control group, boys in the traditional voucher group had increased rates of PTSD (4.9 vs.1.9%; OR, 2.7). Girls in the traditional voucher group had decreased rates of major depression (6.5 vs. 10.9%; OR, 0.6) and conduct disorder (0.3 vs. 2.9%; OR, 0.1), compared to the control group.

“Better understanding of interactions among individual, family, and neighborhood risk factors is needed to guide future public housing policy changes,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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