Neighborhood Disadvantage and Cognition

Izzie Piña

June 29, 2022

Neighborhood disadvantage is associated with stable deficits in neurocognitive functioning


Stress: The feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): A mental health disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event
Neurocognition: The functions in which the brain has the ability to think and reason.  
Socioeconomic position: The interactions of social and economic habits of a group of people or individuals.
Area Deprivation Index (ADI): A score that measures neighborhood hardships. The higher the score the more hardship in all aspects of life are present in this neighborhood.

Area Deprivation Index (ADI) looks at how different neighborhoods are impacted by income, education, employment, housing, and crime rates. This score can impact healthcare services availability and how policies are made. There is a relationship between someone’s socioeconomic position and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a population who has experienced a traumatic event.  This study aimed to learn how neighborhood disadvantage is related to neurocognitive functioning, the ability to think and reason, after experiencing a traumatic event, over a long period of time. Our study looked at a population of socioeconomically diverse individuals who recently experienced a traumatic event and had been seen in the emergency department. These individuals participated in three study visits occurring at two weeks, three months, and six months. During these visits the participants answered questions and participated in different tests to measure various brain functions.


We looked at five different brain functions 1) processing speed, how long it takes someone to get something done, 2) sustained attention, the ability to focus on an activity over a long period of time, 3) controlled attention, what an individual chooses to pay attention to and what they ignore,4) cognitive flexibility, the ability to switch between ideas, and 5) response inhibition, the ability to stop one’s response to distractions.


The findings of this study showed that living in a socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood is a form of stress. Neighborhood disadvantage can be stressful in many different forms such as increased risk for anxiety, depression, poor physical health, drug use, higher levels of exposure to violence and crime. We learned that the five brain activities had been impacted by ADI even after accounting for a person’s income, lifetime trauma experiences and PTSD symptoms. This study showed that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood could be related to predispose individuals to poor or worse neurocognitive outcomes after trauma. Individuals' SEP should be considered when looking at someone’s recovery after a trauma because it can impact their behavior and how they are able to cope and recover.  

Webb, E. K., Weis, C. N., Huggins, A. A., Parisi, E. A., Bennett, K. P., Miskovich, T., Krukowski, J., deRoon-Cassini, T. A., & Larson, C. L. (2021).Neighborhood disadvantage is associated with stable deficits in neurocognitive functioning in traumatically-injured adults. Health & Place, 67,102493.