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Research has shown city dwellers are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression – but could individual buildings have a negative impact on wellbeing?
Screaming sirens, overcrowding, traffic; life in the city isn’t always relaxing.
These stressors aren’t simply inconvenient or irritating, though; research has suggested that urban living has a significant impact on mental health. One meta-analysis found that those living in cities were 21% more likely to experience an anxiety disorder – mood disorders were even higher, at 39%. People who grew up in a city are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those who grew up in the countryside, with a 2005 study suggesting this link may even be causal.
Urban stressors appear to have a biological impact, too. A 2011 study from the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg found that city living was associated with greater stress responses in both the amygdala and the cingulate cortex – areas linked to emotional regulation, depression and anxiety. This increased activation, the research team said, could have a “lasting effect”, both on the brain’s development and its ongoing susceptibility to mental illness.
The studies are part of a wider field of environmental psychology that seeks to understand how individuals interact with their environments, and how those environments can affect our social lives, relationships and even our mental health. […]