An analysis of the effects of the urban environment on child mental health

Health effects from noise Noise pollution affects both health and behavior. Unwanted sound noise can damage physiological health. Noise pollution can cause hypertensionhigh stress levels, tinnitushearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful effects.

An analysis of the effects of the urban environment on child mental health

November Share Do we need to prepare ourselves for a more urbanised and, therefore, more depressed world? With the following article I wish to stimulate a conversation between urban planning, architecture and neuroscience, in the hope of facilitating a more nuanced understanding of how urban and rural living conditions differentially impact upon our mental health.

At a first glance, there are enormous methodological differences between the disciplines of urban planning and neuroscience. On the bright side, there are also indicators that show a protective aspect of large cities with regards to mental health.

Cities, therefore, may lend themselves to facilitating new and appropriate health intervention strategies. Urban living is on the rise whereas rural living is becoming the exception — in all parts of the world and at an ever-increasing rate.

The rapid pace of urbanisation is an important marker of the societal transition at large that has occurred over the past 30 years. Our world is shifting towards an urban, small-family or single household, and at the same time, an ageing society.

But urban living is not only about getting older, it is also about getting stressed.

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Stress is the unspecific physiological and psychological reaction to perceived threats to our physical, psychological or social integrity.

Stress increases with the anticipation of adverse situations and the fear of not having the adequate resources to respond to them. Although not harmful per se, stress may jeopardise our health when stress exposure is chronic or when complete recovery is not possible.

Stress-related health consequences What does stress do to the body? Noradrenaline and adrenaline increase the heart rate and decrease the heart rate variability, dilate the respiratory airways and activate blood platelets to coagulate.

Cortisol antagonises insulin and thus, under certain conditions of persistent stress-dependent dysregulation of the HPA system, results in a diabetes-like metabolic situation.

It restructures body fat, promotes obesity, suppresses the immune system and may have a toxic effect on neurons in certain brain regions, particularly the hippocampus, which is important for memory functions.


At the same time, stress also weakens the enzyme responsible for repairing these protection caps. When the telomeres get too short the cell can no longer divide and the tissue loses its regeneration capacity. The result is premature ageing of the organism.

Urban living and mental health Living in an urban environment is long known to be a risk factor for psychiatric diseases such as major depression or schizophrenia. This is true even though infrastructure, socioeconomic conditions, nutrition and health care services are clearly better in cities than in rural areas.

Higher stress exposure and higher stress vulnerability seem to play a crucial role. Social stress may be the most important factor for the increased risk of mental disorders in urban areas.

It may be experienced as social evaluative threat, or as chronic social stress, both of which are likely to occur as a direct consequence of high population densities in cities.

As for the impact on mental health, social stress seems to outweigh other urban stressors such as pollution or noise. Living in crowded areas is associated with increased social stress, since the environment becomes less controllable for the individual.

Social disparities also become much more prominent in cities and can impose stress on the individual. Further, disturbance of chronobiological rhythmsis is more frequent in cities than in rural areas and has a negative influence on mental health and beyond. A recent meta-analysis showed that urban dwellers have a 20 per cent higher risk of developing anxiety disorders, and a 40 per cent higher risk of developing mood disorders.

Longitudinal studies on patients with schizophrenia indicate that it is urban living and upbringing per se, rather than other epidemiological variables, that increase the risk for mental disorders.

Urbanization and mental health

As urbanisation of our world is inevitable, we urgently need to improve our understanding of the threatening — as well as the health protective — factors of urban living.The Kansas Division of Public Health is one of three divisions within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The Division works with local health departments and other organizations to help assure the health of Kansans through public health services and regulatory programs.

An analysis of the effects of the urban environment on child mental health

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quality, and mental health in culturally diverse adolescents. Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care. ;7(1) The Effects of the Mother's Employment on the Family and the Child.

Lois Wladis Hoffman, PhD Professor Emerita, Department of Psychology University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. The meta analysis by Reddy and Chandrashekhar() revealed higher prevalence of mental disorders in urban area i.e., %, whereas it was % in rural area.

Mental disorders primarily composed of depression and neurotic disorders.

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Socioeconomic stress is . Abstract. Advances in fields of inquiry as diverse as neuroscience, molecular biology, genomics, developmental psychology, epidemiology, sociology, and economics are catalyzing an important paradigm shift in our understanding of health and disease across the lifespan.

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