BACKGROUND In a follow-up survey from Oslo, 503 persons were re-interviewed using the same questionnaire after 10 years.
METHOD The questionnaire includes questions about social support, social characteristics of the neighbourhood and mental health. Information about the neighbourhood was also gathered from key informants.
RESULTS Of the five types of neighbourhoods surveyed, only one showed marked change over time with respect to social characteristics. This was an initially poorly functioning neighbourhood with poor mental health among the residents, where substantial improvements took place as part of the further development of the area. Parallel with the improvement in social environment there was a significant improvement in mental health among those who continued to live in the same area, as opposed to those who continued to live in the other areas. Selective migration could not explain this finding.
CONCLUSIONS The findings support the environment stress hypothesis, implying that the quality of a neighbourhood has an impact on mental health. The implications for psychiatric prevention are discussed.