Background: The ethnic density hypothesis suggests that ethnic density confers greater social support and consequently protects against depressive symptoms in ethnic minority individuals. However, the potential benefits of ethnic density have not been examined in individuals who are facing a specific and salient life stressor.
Aims: We examined the degree to which the effects of Hispanic ethnic density on depressive symptoms are explained by socioeconomic resources and social support.
Methods: Patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS, N = 472) completed the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and measures of demographics, ACS clinical factors and perceived social support. Neighborhood characteristics, including median income, number of single parent households and Hispanic ethnic density, were extracted from the American Community Survey Census (2005–2009) for each patient using his or her geocoded address.
Results: In a linear regression analysis adjusted for demographic and clinical factors, Hispanic ethnic density was positively associated with depressive symptoms (β = .09, standard error (SE) = .04, p = .03). However, Hispanic density was no longer a significant predictor of depressive symptoms when neighborhood characteristics were controlled. The relationship of Hispanic density on depressive symptoms was moderated by nativity status. Among US-born patients with ACS, there was a significant positive relationship between Hispanic density and depressive symptoms and social support significantly mediated this effect. There was no observed effect of Hispanic density to depressive symptoms for foreign-born ACS patients.
Conclusion: Although previous research suggests that ethnic density may be protective against depression, our data suggest that among patients with ACS, living in a community with a high concentration of Hispanic individuals is associated with constrained social and economic resources that are themselves associated with greater depressive symptoms. These data add to a growing body of literature on the effects of racial or ethnic segregation on health outcomes.