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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Individual factors and perceived community characteristics in relation to mental health and mental well-being

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Helen McAneney, Mark A. Tully, Ruth F. Hunter, Anne Kouvonen, Philip Veal, Michael Stevenson, Frank Kee
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

There authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

FK, MT, RH, HMcA and MS were responsible for the survey design and the collection of data. PV and AK helped to conceptualise the ideas. HMcA undertook analysis of the data. The article was drafted by PV, HMcA, MT (methods section) and AK (introduction) and all authors critically reviewed drafts of the article. FK, MT, RH, HMcA, AK and MS were responsible for the interpretation of the findings. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.



It has been argued that though correlated with mental health, mental well-being is a distinct entity. Despite the wealth of literature on mental health, less is known about mental well-being. Mental health is something experienced by individuals, whereas mental well-being can be assessed at the population level. Accordingly it is important to differentiate the individual and population level factors (environmental and social) that could be associated with mental health and well-being, and as people living in deprived areas have a higher prevalence of poor mental health, these relationships should be compared across different levels of neighbourhood deprivation.


A cross-sectional representative random sample of 1,209 adults from 62 Super Output Areas (SOAs) in Belfast, Northern Ireland (Feb 2010 – Jan 2011) were recruited in the PARC Study. Interview-administered questionnaires recorded data on socio-demographic characteristics, health-related behaviours, individual social capital, self-rated health, mental health (SF-8) and mental well-being (WEMWBS). Multi-variable linear regression analyses, with inclusion of clustering by SOAs, were used to explore the associations between individual and perceived community characteristics and mental health and mental well-being, and to investigate how these associations differed by the level of neighbourhood deprivation.


Thirty-eight and 30 % of variability in the measures of mental well-being and mental health, respectively, could be explained by individual factors and the perceived community characteristics. In the total sample and stratified by neighbourhood deprivation, age, marital status and self-rated health were associated with both mental health and well-being, with the ‘social connections’ and local area satisfaction elements of social capital also emerging as explanatory variables. An increase of +1 in EQ-5D-3 L was associated with +1SD of the population mean in both mental health and well-being. Similarly, a change from ‘very dissatisfied’ to ‘very satisfied’ for local area satisfaction would result in +8.75 for mental well-being, but only in the more affluent of areas.


Self-rated health was associated with both mental health and mental well-being. Of the individual social capital explanatory variables, ‘social connections’ was more important for mental well-being. Although similarities in the explanatory variables of mental health and mental well-being exist, socio-ecological interventions designed to improve them may not have equivalent impacts in rich and poor neighbourhoods.
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