Rats Breed Sadness, Anxiety in Neighborhoods

Communities with higher rat prevalence are more likely to battle with anxiety and sadness which are all symptoms of depression; a new finding from a research carried out on low-income urban residents in Baltimore, Maryland.

Beside the residents’ pressing issues and needs such as insecurity, and vacant housing, the researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found in the neighborhood, the relationship between rats and depression.

“Nobody likes living around rats. This study provides very strong evidence that rats are an under-appreciated stressor that affects how people feel about their lives in low-income neighborhoods,” said study leader Danielle German, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Bloomberg School.

In the study which was conducted to examine the exposure to urban rats as a community stressor among low-income urban residents, also as part of study arranged to reduce drug and sex risk behaviors; when asked about their troubling mental health issues, residents would talk about rats and and trash, which are against the expectations of the researchers who thought food and security are the pressing issues.

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Depression Not just a Mental Disorder, Study says.

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“The good news is it’s modifiable, said German. If we can do something to reduce the number of rats in these neighborhoods, we can improve people’s well-being.”

Via targeted outreach, German and Carl A. Latkin, Ph.D. who is also a professor at the Bloomberg School jointly examined exposure, perceptions and perceived rat eradication response among 448 low-income urban residents between March 2010 and December 2011.

Findings revealed that about half of the participants mostly African-American said they sight rats at least once a week, while 35 percent reported seeing them daily. 32 percent considered rats to be a big problem on their blocks. More than half of the participants are of the notion that rats were the sign of a bad neighborhood.

Researchers noted that residents who considered rats to be a big problem were 72 percent more likely to experience depressive symptoms than others. Because these negative and repulsive feelings toward rats re-awake with each rat sighting, contributing to depression.

While talking about the need to eradicate rats from Baltimore city, German affirms that it would be a starting point for other community health priorities.

Findings and details published in the Journal of Community Psychology.

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