Depression more common in suburban single-family homes than in urban centers: new report

Urban areas are more prone to depression than rural areas, but densely populated urban centers are not the worst place to live. New study finds suburbanites are more at risk of depression

According to existing research, people living in urban areas in Western Europe and the US experience 39%**increased risk of depression**compared to those who live elsewhere. You might think that the difference can be explained by high-rise buildings, noise, stress and air pollution.

But new study published in Science Advances found that some urban areas are better than others… for example, city centers.

While you’ll find the most noise, air pollution, and high-rise buildings in densely populated urban areas, people living in sprawling residential suburbs are more prone to depression than their downtown counterparts. Why?

The researchers behind the new study argue that the higher risk of depression found in sprawling low-rise suburbs “may be due in part to long car journeys, fewer open public spaces, and not high enough population densities to provide plenty of local commercial space.” where people can gather. together, such as shops, cafes and restaurants.”

“The best option would be to invest in high-rise housing, where a lifestyle does not depend on owning a private car, combined with thoughtful spatial design to increase access to the coastline, canals, lakes or city parks,” researchers say.

Their argument is not limited to the fact that the suburbs are oppressive because of what they lack; they also argue that dense urban cores have distinct advantages.

Why do city centers look better in terms of mental health?

“Taller buildings or a denser urban form may benefit mental health by increasing population and opportunities for social interaction,” the study explains.

“Social interactions create a sense of community, reciprocity, and trust, which are factors positively associated with mental well-being and protective against depression.”

That said, city centers are often dense neighborhoods with high-rise buildings that “reduce sun exposure and increase local temperatures, an ecological pathway for increased risk of depression symptoms.”

Overall, according to the study, “high-rise buildings with open space nearby” seem to be the best option in urban areas. “The lowest risk [of depression] was among the inhabitants of rural areas and urban areas facing open space.

“A certain level of density is, after all, needed to create vibrant communities that can support shops, businesses and public transportation, while still allowing for recovery with open space benefits,” the study says.

Out and about

Access to and interaction with open green spaces appear to be two keys to preventing depression and serious mental illness.

“We hypothesize that the relatively low risk observed in high-altitude and low-density areas may be due to the fact that they create internal exposure to the sun and are often located on the border between areas that provide dynamic socio-economic interactions and green spaces. and reservoirs providing psychological recovery. “, – explained in the message.

This shows that urban spatial planning can have an impact on the mental health of the population. Researchers note results of other studies showing that high-rise building schemes punctuated by large green spaces can “better mitigate temperature extremes than very dense low-rise areas with little spacing” and adding that “this design also reduces transport-related carbon emissions compared to sprawling urban form. “

Of course, this research has its limits. This was done by analyzing Danish urban areas, the researchers themselves note, and thus “may not be directly applicable to all other countries” because “the socio-environmental factors of mental well-being depend on the cultural and geographical context.”