Health

Study Shows Urban Living Could Be Making You Insane

by Kate Ryan

May 31, 2017
Image via Max Pixel

If you’ve ever felt a little crazy after battling the morning rush hour or losing a night’s sleep to the sound of helicopters buzzing overhead, you’re definitely not alone.

According to a study published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin last Monday, growing up in an urban environment could make you more likely to develop—you guessed it—schizophrenia. After following the lives of 2232 identical and fraternal British twins from birth to the age of 18, researchers found that children raised in urban environments were 67 percent more likely to experience symptoms of psychosis. And when the researchers mention higher incidences of “psychotic experiences,” they mean behavior more along the lines of hearing voices and feeling intense paranoia than annoyance at limited parking spots.   

Helen Fisher from King’s College London teamed up with Candice Odgers of Duke University to study the twins and collected tons of additional data along the way, from how much money their parents made to every big move and major life event in between. To zero in on the rates of psychosis, Fisher and Odgers ruled out common factors associated with city dwellers—i.e., higher rates of poverty and drug use, which can lead to more mental health issues. After ruling out these factors, they found city kids were only 43 percent more likely to develop a mental disorder.

Though Odgers and Fisher wouldn’t be the first researchers to notice this correlation. “The high rates of psychotic illness in urban environments may be the result of the influence of environmental factors,” Dr. Jim van Os wrote in a 2001 study published in the Archive of General Psychiatry. “As the urban effect appears to have its impact during urban upbringing rather than during adult residence per se, developmental mechanisms ought to be considered.”

Ultimately, you shouldn’t ditch the city you love based on one or two (or 10) studies. But if you’re more susceptible to mental health issues and living in a city aggravates those issues, learning about these findings might be the encouragement you need to seek help.  

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