(HealthDay News) – Adolescent boys and boys and girls with health-related vulnerabilities who move from high-poverty public housing arrangements to low-poverty private apartments do not experience mental health benefits, although some girls without health vulnerabilities do benefit.

Theresa L. Osypuk, ScD, of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial involving 2,829 youth aged 12–19 years whose families lived in high-poverty neighborhoods. Families were randomly allocated to remain in public housing or to receive government funding to move into private apartments. Four- to seven-year outcomes were assessed with respect to past year psychological problems (Kessler 6 scale [K6]) and the Behavioral Problems Index (BPI).

The researchers found that the intervention effect on K6 scores was significantly and adversely modified by male gender and family health vulnerability. The effect of the intervention on BPI was significantly and adversely affected by male gender, but not family health vulnerability. The only subgroup to benefit from the intervention was girls without family health vulnerabilities. The intervention correlated with worse K6 and BPI outcomes for boys with health vulnerabilities. There were no benefits for girls with health vulnerability or for boys without health vulnerability.

“In conclusion, this housing policy experiment benefited the mental health of some adolescents, particularly girls in families without health vulnerabilities, but had either nonsignificant or harmful effects on the mental health of adolescents from families with preexisting health-related vulnerabilities, particularly boys,” the authors write.

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