American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 56, Issue 1–2, pp 145–155 | Cite as

Identifying Perceived Neighborhood Stressors Across Diverse Communities in New York City

  • Jessie L. C. Shmool
  • Michael A. Yonas
  • Ogonnaya Dotson Newman
  • Laura D. Kubzansky
  • Evelyn Joseph
  • Ana Parks
  • Charles Callaway
  • Lauren G. Chubb
  • Peggy Shepard
  • Jane E. Clougherty
Original Article


There is growing interest in the role of psychosocial stress in health disparities. Identifying which social stressors are most important to community residents is critical for accurately incorporating stressor exposures into health research. Using a community-academic partnered approach, we designed a multi-community study across the five boroughs of New York City to characterize resident perceptions of key neighborhood stressors. We conducted 14 community focus groups; two to three in each borough, with one adolescent group and one Spanish-speaking group per borough. We then used systematic content analysis and participant ranking data to describe prominent neighborhood stressors and identify dominant themes. Three inter-related themes regarding the social and structural sources of stressful experiences were most commonly identified across neighborhoods: (1) physical disorder and perceived neglect, (2) harassment by police and perceived safety and (3) gentrification and racial discrimination. Our findings suggest that multiple sources of distress, including social, political, physical and economic factors, should be considered when investigating health effects of community stressor exposures and psychological distress. Community expertise is essential for comprehensively characterizing the range of neighborhood stressors that may be implicated in psychosocial exposure pathways.


Gentrification Physical disorder Police-community dynamics Psychosocial stressors Racism 


Compliance with Ethical Standard


This work was supported by US EPA Grant #RD-83457601-0.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10464_2015_9736_MOESM1_ESM.docx (109 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 108 kb)
10464_2015_9736_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (871 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 871 kb)


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Copyright information

© Society for Community Research and Action 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessie L. C. Shmool
    • 1
  • Michael A. Yonas
    • 2
  • Ogonnaya Dotson Newman
    • 3
  • Laura D. Kubzansky
    • 4
  • Evelyn Joseph
    • 3
  • Ana Parks
    • 3
  • Charles Callaway
    • 3
  • Lauren G. Chubb
    • 1
  • Peggy Shepard
    • 3
  • Jane E. Clougherty
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental and Occupational HealthUniversity of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public HealthPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.The Pittsburgh FoundationPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.WE ACT for Environmental Justice (West Harlem Environmental Action Coalition, Inc.)New YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Social and Behavioral SciencesHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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