City dwellers have a 21 percent higher risk of anxiety disorder and a 39 percent higher risk of mood disorders. The incidence of schizophrenia is almost 100 percent greater among individuals who have lived in cities most of their lives.
"Speak with a therapist if city living is geeting the best of you."
While this association with city living and mood disorders has been demonstrated by many studies, the biology for exactly how they are linked has just been explained by new research. Douglas Mental Health University Institute researcher Jens Pruessner is the first to show two distinct brain regions, regulating emotion and stress, that are affected by city living.
Pruessner and colleagues from the Central Institute of Mental Health looked at the brain activity of participants from urban and rural areas. Results showed that city living was associated with greater stress responses in the amygdala, an area of the brain that controls emotional regulation.
Being brought up in a city was also associated with activity in the cingulate cortex, the brain area that regulates stress and negative affect.
"These findings suggest that different brain regions are sensitive to the experience of city living during different times across the lifespan," Pruessner said. He added that the research helps understand the urban environmental risk for mental disorders, but that future studies need to be done to clarify the link between psychopathology and these urban affects.
Findings were reported in the June 2011 issue of Nature.