How Gentrification and Immigration Impact Locals’ Health Perceptions

When gentrification and immigration change neighborhoods, it can affect the well-being of residents. Professor Luisa Borrell at CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy wanted to find out how locals perceive that impact, especially with regards to their health. Working in a Madrid neighborhood, she set about describing qualitatively how longterm residents viewed the changes taking place thanks to an influx of younger people and immigrants. The results were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The study’s findings were based on interviews with adult residents and professionals living in a neighborhood in Madrid. They mentioned feeling lonelier, more stressed, and an overall lack of social support. Sixty-nine-year-old Diana shared, “I had a neighbor who has gone with my children to the doctor, if it was necessary (…) but you no longer trust people as before. Now you have these second generation neighbors who say good morning and good afternoon, but you do not connect anymore with them because they are young couples or single-parent couples.”

“Previous generations of residents were very homogeneous and had very tight social links with each other, with neighbors knowing one other for decades,” said Dr. Borrell, who was trained as a dentist before becoming an epidemiologist. “These social links were hard to maintain when the demographics changed, and that increased “levels of isolation and loneliness.”

The elderly were more affected by perceptions of loneliness and changes in relationships with neighbors, while younger residents were more affected by stress due to employment worries. The study also identified some positive effects resulting from the neighborhood changes. With a rise in individualism, people took more responsibility for maintaining their own health and engaging in self-care behaviors.

Dr. Borrell believes the study provides important insight into crafting urban health policies, specifically that planners should take into account social ties and family responsibilities while promoting and providing access to programs that improve health. She also sees the implications beyond Madrid. In an interview, she drew parallels to New York and other major cities. “For example, African-Americans who resided in Harlem have been displaced to the Bronx or Long Island when they have been in Harlem all their lives,” Dr. Borrell explained. “The difference with Madrid is that the displacement is happening mainly with older people. They are feeling left out. They don’t feel connected. Here it’s happening with everybody.”

Borrell also recently published studies examining the impact of gender and education on European immigrants, and the correlation between a lack of insurance and poor oral health in noncitizen immigrants in the U.S.

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Explore This Work
“Changing Neighborhoods and Residents’ Health Perceptions: The Heart Healthy Hoods Qualitative Study”

Work By
Luisa N. Borrell (Department Chair and Professor, Epidemiology and Biostatistics) | Profile 1

Colleges and Schools
Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy

Bonus Content
“Changing neighborhoods and changing health perceptions” (CPH News)
“The Dentist Who Became an Epidemiologist” (GC News)

Related Terms

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