Residents of low-income neighborhoods who believe rats are a frequent presence are more likely to experience symptoms of depression, according to a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study published in the Journal of Community Psychology.
Previous research shows depression is a common issue among people facing poverty. A 2012 Gallup poll found 30.9% of people living in poverty experienced depression, compared to 15.8% of people who were not impoverished. The survey also found higher rates of other health conditions—including obesity, asthma, diabetes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure—among impoverished Americans.
Correlation Between Rats and Depression
Researchers surveyed 448 low-income residents of urban regions in Baltimore, Maryland, about the presence of rats. Most of the residents were African-American (87.3%) and male (54.9%).
Thirty-five percent of respondents said rats were not a problem in their neighborhood, with the remainder reporting regular rat exposure. Thirty-five percent of that group said they saw rats at least daily on their block, and 50% reported seeing rats on a daily basis in other areas of the neighborhood. Thirteen percent said they had rats in their homes, and 5% said they saw rats on a daily or near-daily basis in their homes.
Among the 32% of respondents who said rats were a “big problem,” depression symptoms were 72% higher than those who did not consider rats to be a problem. People living in areas with significant rat problems were also less confident in their own ability to control rats, their neighbors’ commitment to managing rat infestations, and the government’s willingness to take action.
Can Presence of Rats Cause Depression?
Several issues, including illegal dumping, abandoned properties, and the inability to afford secure trash cans can increase the prevalence of rats in a neighborhood. Baltimore is currently working to provide sturdy trash cans to each resident, but the study’s authors say these measures may be inadequate.
- Brown, A. (2012, October 30). With poverty comes depression, more than other illnesses. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/158417/poverty-comes-depression-illness.aspx
- German, D., & Latkin, C. A. (2016). Exposure to urban rats as a community stressor among low-income urban residents. Journal of Community Psychology, 44(2), 249-262. doi:10.1002/jcop.21762
- Rat problems in poor neighborhoods linked to depressive symptoms. (2016, March 16). Retrieved from http://www.newswise.com/articles/rat-problems-in-poor-neighborhoods-linked-to-depressive-symptoms
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