Factors that may cause mental illnesses -  Part 3: Urban living

Factors that may cause mental illnesses – Part 3: Urban living

Although the urban population has better access to health care, qualitative life and a decent lifestyle, none of these factors can save people from being haunted by mental illnesses. Living in a city, where constant noise and hectic life are integral elements of the daily life, can take a toll on the mental health of the people.

As social problems and environmental stressors, such as social isolation, crime, pollution, etc., are more common in the cities, several studies have revealed that urban living could be a determining factor behind the rise of mental illnesses. Some of the risk factors, such as a higher level of stress, noise, pollution and rat race like life, cause the onset of mental illnesses.

Compared to people living in the villages and countryside, the brains of people residing in the cities are incapable of handling stress. Amygdala, one of the key portions of the brain in generating fear, is comparatively more active among city dwellers.

Considering the fact that urbanization is inevitable, the above finding will help medical experts in finding out the exact cause of some serious mental illnesses. According to a United Nations (UN) report, the world population living in cities is expected to increase from 54 percent in 2014 to 66 percent by 2050. In the light of this revelation, it is important to know whether city life really threatens mental health or not.

In this series “Factors that may cause mental illnesses,” parents’ mental health and childhood bullying have already been discussed. The current article discusses how urban living is affecting the well-being of the people.

Amygdala most active among city people and least active among villagers

As such, it is not a matter of speculation to understand the fact that urban living is a major deterrent in the path of achieving overall mental well-being. It was first suggested by the researchers in 1930 that schizophrenia could be traced back to urban living. However, it is only in the recent times that studies concentrating on finding a link between urban living and other mental illnesses have gained pace.

A study, led by Dr. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, tried finding out how the brains of different people handle stress. For this, the researchers checked the two brain regions, including amygdala and perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC).

While amygdala usually assesses the environmental threats and generate fear, the pACC helps in managing the emotions produced by the amygdala. Out of all, the countryside population had the least active amygdala and city dwellers the most active amygdala.

Interestingly, the researchers also found those who had spent their childhood in rural spaces had the least active pACC compared to others. Additionally, there was no smooth connection found between the behaviors of the two brain regions in the urban population as observed among others. As the lack of error-free co-ordination between the pACC and amygdala is also a symptom of schizophrenia, schizophrenia is more pronounced among those living in the cities.

Another study has also found that living in a city almost doubles the risk of schizophrenia and raises the risk of developing anxiety and mood disorders by 21 percent and 39 percent, respectively. A group of researchers led by Helen Fisher, a psychologist at King’s College London, found that growing up in a city increased the risk of acquiring psychotic symptoms by almost double at the age of 12. Similarly, exposure to crime and lower bonding with neighbors (social cohesion) were identified as the biggest risk factors.

Mental illnesses can be treated

While avoiding city life is not a good solution as urbanization is likely to grow more, one can ensure making effective changes in his or her life by seeking sophisticated and advanced treatments for mental illnesses. There are now more mental health treatment centers in California than what were available a decade back. Considering this fact, one can easily access more effective and affordable mental care services.

If you or your loved one has any mental illness, connect to the California Mental Health Help that works with the best mental health centers in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855- 559-3923 or chat online to seek more information on the residential mental health facilities in California.

Read the other articles of the series “Factors causing mental illnesses:”

  1. Parents’ mental health contribute to their children’s well-being
  2. Childhood bullying


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