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Neighborhoods and Infectious Disease Risk: Acquisition of Chlamydia during the Transition to Young Adulthood

Adolescents and young adults have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the USA despite national priority goals targeting their reduction. Research on the role of neighborhoods in shaping STI risk among youth has increased in recent years, but few studies have explored the longitudinal effects of neighborhoods on STI acquisition during the adolescent to young adult transition. The aims of this study were to examine: (1) the longitudinal relationships between the neighborhood context (poverty, residential instability, and racial/ethnic concentration) of exposure during adolescence and young adults’ acquisition of chlamydia, and (2) the extent to which sexual risk behaviors and depression over the transition from adolescence to young adulthood mediate the relationship between the neighborhood context of exposure during adolescence and young adults’ acquisition of chlamydia. A longitudinal observational design was employed using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), waves 1–3 (1994–2002). The sample was composed of 11,460 young adults aged 18 to 27 years. Neighborhood measures during adolescence were derived from the 1990 US Census appended to adolescents’ interview data. Chlamydia infection was measured via urine assay at wave 3 and 4.6 % of the young adults in the sample tested positive for chlamydia. Multilevel logistic regression analyses were conducted adjusting for numerous neighborhood and individual risk factors. Multivariate findings indicated exposure to neighborhood poverty during adolescence increased the likelihood of a positive urine test for chlamydia during young adulthood (AOR = 1.23, 95 % CI = 1.06, 1.42), and the association was not mediated by sexual risk behaviors or depression. Further research is needed to better understand the pathways through which exposure to neighborhood poverty contributes to chlamydia over the life course as are comprehensive STI prevention strategies addressing neighborhood poverty.