The social environment has a major impact on health
Worldwide, more and more people live in urban areas, while the rural population tends to decline. In 2007 there were for the first time more inhabitants worldwide in cities than in rural regions. Demographers refer to this development as the so-called "urban turnaround", which is accompanied by the phenomenon of rural exodus.
According to the experts, an end to the trend is not yet in sight and so more and more people are flocking towards the big cities worldwide. However, this can sometimes have fatal consequences for health, because according to the head of the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim (ZI), Prof. Dr. med. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, an essential role in the occurrence of various diseases. Numerous studies have shown, for example, an increased risk of illness in the area of mental suffering or an increased likelihood of high blood pressure among city dwellers. The high blood pressure in turn has effects on the entire organism and the occurrence of other complaints, especially in the cardiovascular area (e.g. heart attack). According to the ZI expert, the rural people live on average significantly longer than the city dwellers.
Numerous disease-causing factors in cities
In many countries, the hope of better job opportunities is driving people to settle in one of the rapidly expanding cities. However, this has some negative consequences for health. Back in June, the research team led by Prof. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg from the Central Institute for Mental Health, together with colleagues from McGill University in Montreal, published concrete study results for the first time, which demonstrated an increased risk of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders or schizophrenia in the big cities. According to the researchers, it can be stated that the risk of developing an illness increases with the size of the place of residence. Various factors such as noise pollution, air pollution (e.g. fine dust pollution), the constriction of the built-up areas, poor lighting conditions and social stress play an important role. The respective risk factors were scientifically examined in numerous previous studies separately and also in interaction with each other - with frightening results. The noise alone can be sufficient to weaken the immune system sustainably. In particular, from a volume of 55 decibels during the night, noise disturbs the rhythm of sleep, which in the long term entails an increased risk of heart attack, according to the experts. According to the researchers, this effect also occurs when those affected do not consciously feel disturbed by the noise.
Social stress increases the likelihood of mental illness
With regard to the increased social stress to which city dwellers are regularly exposed, Prof. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg explained that this also has negative consequences for health and leads to urban dwellers tending to be more susceptible to psychologically stressful situations. In their own investigations, the researchers at the ZI were able to prove that city dwellers under stress showed on average a significantly higher activity of the amygdala and the so-called cingular cortex (part of the frontal lobe in the brain) than the study participants from rural regions. As Prof. Meyer-Lindenberg explained, "these two regions in the brain are particularly susceptible to stress." According to the expert, the increased activity therefore makes it clear that the people who live in the city are much more sensitive to stressful situations. In addition, according to Prof. Meyer-Lindenberg, the changed brain activity could also help explain the demonstrably increased risk of mental illnesses in city dwellers.
High blood pressure due to air pollution
At a US conference of the American Thoracic Society in New Orleans, scientists at the University of Duisburg-Essen presented results in May 2010 on the health impairments caused by air pollution and in particular particulate matter pollution in urban areas, which show a clear connection between the occurrence of Establish high blood pressure and air pollution. According to the study director Barbara Hoffmann at the time, a study said that a health-damaging effect had already been observed with fine dust pollution that was significantly below the prescribed legal limit values.
All in all, life in the city is associated with numerous health risks, which may not be noticeable in individual cases, but the majority of them have a significant effect on the health of city residents. Since, according to the experts, the risk of illness increases with the size of the city and the length of life in an urban environment, this should be taken into account when choosing where to live. With a more detailed analysis of the factors that cause illness in cities, the risk of illness could be significantly reduced in the future by urban planning measures, so that city life ultimately has fewer disadvantages for health. (fp)
Higher risk of depression in the city
City life increases your susceptibility to stress
Risk of psychosis: urban people get sick more often
Metropolitan cities pose health risks
Image: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de