How do cities affect our mental health?

University of Chicago study shows city has lower rates of depression, which goes against many popular beliefs

Cities have a bad reputation for impairing our mental health, which is strained against traffic jams, roadwork, and noise of all kinds. So living in the city in the minds of people would be conducive to depression.

However, a recent study by the University of Chicago suggests the opposite. The latter also reveals lower rates of depression for individuals living in cities. The study, led by Andrew Steer, Mark Berman and Louis Bettencourt, looks specifically at the impact of socio-economic relationships on well-being. This new research uncovers a link between a higher number of socio-economic interactions and a lower risk of depression – possibly because these connections provide more stimulation and more goals.

In fact, it has been proven that the environment of sustainable stimulation provided by the city is conducive to the personal development of individuals who are in constant exposure to innovation.

Socializing Against Depression

One of the findings of urban science in recent years is that on average people’s interactions are associated with a greater variety of tasks when living in large cities. Knowing that social isolation is a significant risk factor for depression, it was understood that greater socialization through these different networks may be protective.

Berman, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Neuroscience, explained that the fact that there is more social interaction in larger cities leads some to believe that these relationships are more superficial or of low quality. Although the team did not assess the quality of social interactions in their study, they say the results are not skewed by this variable.

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The researchers make it clear that the study focused on depression and therefore did not include other mental illnesses.

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