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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

George Mason: Study Finds New Insights on Drug Overdose Rates, Neighborhood Segregation, and Socioeconomics

A study led by George Mason University College of Health and Human Services revealed new insight into the effect of neighborhood socioeconomics and segregation on drug overdose deaths.

Analyzing county-level data, they found that socioeconomic factors and segregated neighborhoods may affect the rate of drug overdose deaths independently of one other and differently among racial and ethnic groups. This is the first study of its kind to explore both influences at the county level.

Dr. Cara Frankenfeld from the Department of Global and Community Health and Dr. Timothy Leslie from Mason’s Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, published in Annals of Epidemiology.

“Our social environments may have a critical influence on the health in the area,” Dr. Frankenfeld noted. “That’s why it’s so important to study the relationship between racially or ethnically segregated neighborhoods — which may be the result of structural racism — and drug overdose deaths.”

This study used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Underlying Cause of Death and the American Community Survey.

The research is challenged by a small number of deaths at lower levels of geography, but future research is recommended at the individual level to look at the interaction between individual socioeconomic characteristics and social geography. Poverty was an important factor, and more work in that area is recommended. This could help us better understand the impact of the social environment on substance abuse and drug overdose deaths.

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