Neighborhood violence is associated with a range of health consequences but little is known about the biological processes involved. Research in disease pathogenesis has identified low-grade inflammation as a process that, beginning in the first decades of life, is both induced by chronic stress and a contributor to multiple cardiometabolic diseases that present throughout the lifecourse. Previous research has examined whether neighborhood violence is associated with inflammatory biomarkers, but has been limited to cytokine indicators of inflammation. In a sample of adolescents (n = 203) residing in Chicago, we tested cross-sectional associations between neighborhood violence and cellular and cytokine indicators of inflammation. Neighborhood-level violence was measured in multiple ways (as murder rates of Census block groups and as the sum of homicides within 1 and ½ mile zones) in the areas surrounding where youth lived and attended school. At the individual level, violence exposure was measured by self-report (direct victimization, witnessing violence, and/or victimization of family or friends in the past year). Adolescents residing in high-violence neighborhoods evidenced higher numbers of pro-inflammatory classical (CD14++CD16-) monocytes relative to those in less violent neighborhoods. In contrast, neighborhood-level violence was not consistently associated with cytokine levels across different model specifications. Self-reported violence exposure was also not consistently associated with inflammatory biomarkers. Neighborhood-level violence and self-reported violence exposure interacted, such that the positive association between neighborhood-level violence and classical monocytes was observed only among adolescents who reported being exposed to violence. Associations were largely specific to the neighborhoods in which youth lived as opposed to those in which they attended school. Findings provide the first evidence that youth residing in high-violence neighborhoods show mobilization of classical monocytes, suggesting a pro-inflammatory mechanism through which contextual stressors such as neighborhood violence may compromise health.
- Community violence
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Biological Psychiatry