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Description: Is city living good for you? When lecturing on mental health and illness I usually refer to research suggesting that rates of a number of mental disorders are higher in urban centers but that causal nature of that observation is problematic as cities are where most mental health treatment centers are located and most of their clients are served on an outpatient basis. The more focused question is worth asking. Are there aspects of city living that contribute (causally) to higher rates of mental illness and if so, how do those causal factors work or play out? Think about these questions and once you have your thoughts and hypotheses in order read the article linked below to see what recent research looking at these questions has to suggest.

Source: Cities increase your risk of depression, anxiety and psychosis – but bring mental health benefits too, Andrea Mechelli, The Conversation.

Date: December 28, 2019

Photo Credit: Maddening? Shutterstock

Article Link:

Were you surprised by any of the findings reported in the linked article? The neuroscience findings are quite pointed showing that the size of the city one lives in effects the size of one’s stress response in stress inducing tasks. As well, the amplitude of one’s neural response to social stress is directly associated with the amount of time spent living in a city during one’s childhood. Further, the dosage one has of city living predicts risk for mental illness. Fewer clear things were stated about what could be involved in these findings. Lack of green space is suggested, and the preponderance of park space seems to predict positive city living dosages. Air pollution and loneliness are also implicated. There are a number of positive effects reported as well. The bottom line seems to be that we need to try to unpack the notion of city living if we are going to begin to understand the causal negative and positive influences of city living on our physical and mental health and well-being.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is city living good or bad for you or is this the right question to ask?
  2. What might the causal factors be that are associated with city living effects (both bad and good)?
  3. What are some of the city planning take-aways from this research area (and what other research is needed if planning and urban design are to be improved?

References (Read Further):

Galea, S., & Vlahov, D. (2005). Urban health: evidence, challenges, and directions. Annu. Rev. Public Health, 26, 341-365.,5&scillfp=4552323123954460341&oi=lle

Sundquist, K., Frank, G., & Sundquist, J. A. N. (2004). Urbanisation and incidence of psychosis and depression: follow-up study of 4.4 million women and men in Sweden. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 184(4), 293-298.

Peen, J., Schoevers, R. A., Beekman, A. T., & Dekker, J. (2010). The current status of urban‐rural differences in psychiatric disorders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 121(2), 84-93.

Gianaros, P. J., Horenstein, J. A., Cohen, S., Matthews, K. A., Brown, S. M., Flory, J. D., … & Hariri, A. R. (2007). Perigenual anterior cingulate morphology covaries with perceived social standing. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 2(3), 161-173.,5&scillfp=4691297228725954912&oi=lle

Astell-Burt, T., & Feng, X. (2019). Association of urban green space with mental health and general health among adults in Australia. JAMA network open, 2(7), e198209-e198209.

Galea, S., Uddin, M., & Koenen, K. (2011). The urban environment and mental disorders: Epigenetic links. Epigenetics, 6(4), 400-404.,5&scillfp=16682267641825107207&oi=lle

Evans, G. W. (2003). The built environment and mental health. Journal of urban health, 80(4), 536-555.