Psychosocial Mechanisms Linking the Social Environment to Mental Health in African Americans
Resource-poor social environments predict poor health, but the mechanisms and processes linking the social environment to psychological health and well-being remain unclear. This study explored psychosocial mediators of the association between the social environment and mental health in African American adults. African American men and women (n = 1467) completed questionnaires on the social environment, psychosocial factors (stress, depressive symptoms, and racial discrimination), and mental health. Multiple-mediator models were used to assess direct and indirect effects of the social environment on mental health. Low social status in the community (p < .001) and U.S. (p < .001) and low social support (p < .001) were associated with poor mental health. Psychosocial factors significantly jointly mediated the relationship between the social environment and mental health in multiple-mediator models. Low social status and social support were associated with greater perceived stress, depressive symptoms, and perceived racial discrimination, which were associated with poor mental health. Results suggest the relationship between the social environment and mental health is mediated by psychosocial factors and revealed potential mechanisms through which social status and social support influence the mental health of African American men and women. Findings from this study provide insight into the differential effects of stress, depression and discrimination on mental health. Ecological approaches that aim to improve the social environment and psychosocial mediators may enhance health-related quality of life and reduce health disparities in African Americans.