Log in | Register

Urban life and ‘concrete jungle’ intensify mental health disorders

Words: Huw Morris
Community housing / iStock-507211233

Nearly half of humans across the world are living in population densities that damage their mental health, according to key international research.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), an international environmental charity, alongside the University of Virginia and Stockholm Resilience Centre, looked at the psychological impact of life in the “concrete jungle”.

Researchers warn that human society could face escalating mental health issues unless steps are taken to guarantee greater access to nature and green spaces in cities.

Their analysis of a range of economic, health and environmental studies suggests that the same human interaction that makes cities hubs for productivity, creativity, and innovation is increasingly contributing to an “urban psychological penalty” of escalating stress and other mental health disorders.

They found that 46 per cent of humans are already living at the kind of population densities where studies have shown there are mental health impacts. This trend is likely to accelerate as urbanisation continues worldwide, with an additional 2.4 billion people predicted to be living in cities and towns by 2050.

Although even brief interactions with the natural world can have significant mental health benefits, data suggests that only 13 per cent of the world’s urban populations currently live sufficiently close to nature to experience such benefits.

“We are living in the urban century, and we are witness to the greatest mass-migrations in human history, as people move from the countryside into towns and cities,” said Dr Robert McDonald, the study’s main author and lead scientist for TNC’s global cities programme. 

“In this urban century, our findings provide an urgent reminder of both the potential mental health implications of more densely packed cities, and the indispensable role of nature in helping solve these issues.

“We hope this study will act as something of a wake-up call for local, regional and national governments, as well as architects and city planners, about the vital importance of designing nature into the very heart of our growing cities,” he added. “In an urban century, it’s more vital than ever that our concrete jungles have a green soul.”

Image credit | iStock