Study: Living in Nature Protects Against Mental Illness, While Living in the City Increases Risk

You’re more likely to suffer from anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia, paranoia, addiction and mood disorders if you live in a big city rather than surrounded by nature, according to a meta-analysis of dozens of studies


A recent meta-analysis of dozens of studies has found that the risk for serious mental illness is generally higher in cities compared to rural areas.

Anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia, paranoia, PTSD, addiction, anger and mood disorders  are “generally higher in cities than in rural areas,” researchers from the University of Berlin and Boston University found.

One Danish study they reviewed found that living in a major city for the first 15 years of life more than doubled the risk for schizophrenia.

Why are cities so bad for our mental health?

The authors of the study blame both the physical environment and social stratification.

Air and water pollution, noise pollution, light pollution and the even the aesthetics of tall buildings are all factors, they say.

Poverty, lack of social support, social segregation and physical violence are all more common in cities, they add.

“Living close to major streets or airports increases exposure to traffic noise and pollution and is associated with higher levels of stress and aggression,” the authors write.

“Urban light exposure may further influence the circadian rhythm and change sleeping patterns with known consequences for mental well-being,” they add.

Trees and green space can help

Greater access to green space (trees an vegetation), and blue space (water), and better walkability is associated with less depression and improved mental well being, the researchers said.

A canopy of trees can reduce heat in the concrete jungle and soften the appearance of “tall buildings that may be perceived as oppressive,” they add.

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