The number of people living in cities continues to grow. Some estimates state that around 70 percent of people are likely to live in cities by the year 2050. City living provides a rich, stimulating, social and cultural environment as well as easy access to medical care and a range of other facilities. The down side is that the risk of suffering from anxiety disorders is 21 percent higher than those who live in more rural settings and 39 percent higher for mood disorders.
This isn't news to many of us but the fact that two regions of the brain are shown to be affected certainly is. Findings from an international research study published in Nature demonstrate that certain regions of the brain involved with emotion regulation and stress are sensitive to the experience of city living. Using a series of MRI scanning experiments, researchers compared the effects of an induced stress task to volunteers from both rural and urban areas. Those living in urban areas showed much higher stress responses. Dr. Jens Pruessner of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Quebec, who helped run the study, also said the incidence of schizophrenia is almost doubled for individuals born and brought up in cities. It isn't yet clear why these areas of the brain are more active in city dwellers but possible candidates for consideration are toxins, crowding and noise.
One reason why some people appear to thrive in cities whilst others yearn to leave may be the degree of perceived control individuals have over their daily lives. Plus of course cities tend to have higher rates of crime and certain areas that are more ‘no-go' than others. This alone says something about the importance of city planning as to its effects on the health and welfare of those who live there.
Whether you live in the city or not the same principles of stress reduction apply. Those with a higher income are more able to pick and choose from the many stress-reducing facilities a city can offer, but you don't actually need an expensive gym membership, or spa treatments to reduce stress. Access to green space is a proven way to power down and it can take as little as five minutes to feel the benefits. Exercise, a regular sleep pattern, relaxation and a good diet are all effective strategies to build and maintain resilience against stress.
Douglas Mental Health University Institute. "Stress in the city: Brain activity and biology behind mood disorders of urbanites." ScienceDaily, 22 Jun. 2011. Web. 23 Jun. 2011.
Published On: June 23, 2011