Neighbourhood characteristics and the treated incidence rate of borderline personality pathology among young people.

O'Donoghue, Brian; Michel, Chantal; Thompson, Katherine N; Cavelti, Marialuisa; Eaton, Scott; Betts, Jennifer K; Fowler, Claire; Luebbers, Stefan; Kaess, Michael; Chanen, Andrew M (2023). Neighbourhood characteristics and the treated incidence rate of borderline personality pathology among young people. Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry, 57(9), pp. 1263-1270. Sage 10.1177/00048674231157274

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The impact of the wider social environment, such as neighbourhood characteristics, has not been examined in the development of borderline personality disorder. This study aimed to determine whether the treated incidence rate of full-threshold borderline personality disorder and sub-threshold borderline personality disorder, collectively termed borderline personality pathology, was associated with the specific neighbourhood characteristics of social deprivation and social fragmentation.


This study included young people, aged 15-24 years, who attended Orygen's Helping Young People Early programme, a specialist early intervention service for young people with borderline personality pathology, from 1 August 2000-1 February 2008. Diagnoses were confirmed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Personality Disorders, and census data from 2006 were used to determine the at-risk population and to obtain measures of social deprivation and fragmentation.


The study included 282 young people, of these 78.0% (n = 220) were female and the mean age was 18.3 years (SD = ±2.7). A total of 42.9% (n = 121) met criteria for full-threshold borderline personality disorder, and 57.1% (n = 161) had sub-threshold borderline personality disorder, defined as having three or four of the nine Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; DSM-IV) borderline personality disorder criteria. There was more than a sixfold increase in the treated incidence rate of borderline personality pathology in the neighbourhoods of above average deprivation (Quartile 3) (incidence rate ratio = 6.45, 95% confidence interval: [4.62, 8.98], p < 0.001), and this was consistent in the borderline personality disorder sub-groups. This association was also present in the most socially deprived neighbourhood (Quartile 4) (incidence rate ratio = 1.63, 95% confidence interval: [1.10, 2.44]), however, only for those with sub-threshold borderline personality disorder. The treated incidence of borderline personality pathology increased incrementally with the level of social fragmentation (Quartile 3: incidence rate ratio = 1.93, 95% confidence interval: [1.37, 2.72], Quartile 4: incidence rate ratio = 2.38, 95% confidence interval: [1.77, 3.21]).


Borderline personality pathology has a higher treated incidence in the more socially deprived and fragmented neighbourhoods. These findings have implications for funding and location of clinical services for young people with borderline personality pathology. Prospective, longitudinal studies should examine neighbourhood characteristics as potential aetiological factors for borderline personality pathology.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy

UniBE Contributor:

Michel, Chantal, Cavelti, Marialuisa (A)


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

06 Mar 2023 09:23

Last Modified:

26 Aug 2023 00:12

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Borderline personality disorder deprivation social fragmentation socioeconomic status




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