Associations between residence at birth and mental health disorders: a spatial analysis of retrospective cohort data.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Mental health disorders impact approximately one in four US adults. While their causes are likely multifactorial, prior research has linked the risk of certain mental health disorders to prenatal and early childhood environmental exposures, motivating a spatial analysis to determine whether risk varies by birth location.


We investigated the spatial associations between residence at birth and odds of depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a retrospective cohort (Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1969-1983) using generalized additive models to simultaneously smooth location and adjust for confounders. Birth location served as a surrogate for prenatal exposure to the combination of social and environmental factors related to the development of mental illness. We predicted crude and adjusted odds ratios (aOR) for each outcome across the study area. The results were mapped to identify areas of increased risk.


We observed spatial variation in the crude odds ratios of depression that was still present even after accounting for spatial confounding due to geographic differences in the distribution of known risk factors (aOR range: 0.61-3.07, P = 0.03). Similar geographic patterns were seen for the crude odds of PTSD; however, these patterns were no longer present in the adjusted analysis (aOR range: 0.49-1.36, P = 0.79), with family history of mental illness most notably influencing the geographic patterns. Analyses of the odds of bipolar disorder did not show any meaningful spatial variation (aOR range: 0.58-1.17, P = 0.82).


Spatial associations exist between residence at birth and odds of PTSD and depression, but much of this variation can be explained by the geographic distributions of available risk factors. However, these risk factors did not account for all the variation observed with depression, suggesting that other social and environmental factors within our study area need further investigation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hoffman, K; Aschengrau, A; Webster, TF; Bartell, SM; Vieira, VM

Published Date

  • July 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 15 /

Start / End Page

  • 688 -

PubMed ID

  • 26195105

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4508761

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1471-2458

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1471-2458

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/s12889-015-2011-z


  • eng