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Depression And The City: Urban Dwellers Are Getting Mood Disorders

It is well known that city dwellers are more prone to experience anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Why?

people on the sidewalk of a busy city

Photo: Fang Guo (Flickr)

City dwellers are more likely to have anxiety and mood disorders.

Around the world, millions of people are migrating from rural to urban areas from the countryside to cities. Which is good in all sorts of ways. But there are some potential problems, too. For example, it’s well known that city dwellers are more prone to experience anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Specifically, studies have shown that city folk have a 21 percent greater risk for anxiety compared to their country cousins, and a 39 percent increase for mood disorders. And the risk for schizophrenia is nearly double for urbanites.

Cities = Anxiety!

So what makes cities so potent when it comes to mental afflictions?

There are many potential triggers. And to begin to puzzle out the complex dynamic, scientists are now exploring how city life affects the brain.

Inside The Study…

In one study, scientists used imaging to observe the brain activity of healthy volunteers from urban and rural areas. And they found that city life corresponded with strong stress responses in the amygdala a region of the brain associated with mood and regulating emotions. The scientists also found that urban dwellers had notable activity in the cingulate cortex, which helps regulate negative affect and stress.

Not all city people suffer from mental illness, of course.

But better understanding how the brain processes the stresses of urban life could lead to treatments to help those whose city existence takes a toll on their psyche.

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