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Biology Behind Urban Anxiety

Living in an urban area is related to a greater lifetime risk for anxiety and mood disorders, according to many researchers, and how city life affects emotion and stress centers in the brain is the focus of new research.

Researchers believe the findings may lead to strategies that improve the quality of life for city dwellers.

“Previous findings have shown that the risk for anxiety disorders is 21 percent higher for people from the city, who also have a 39 percent increase for mood disorders,” said co-author Jens Pruessner, Ph.D.

“In addition, the incidence for schizophrenia is almost doubled for individuals who are born and brought up in cities. These values are a cause for concern and determining the biology behind this is the first step to remedy the trend.”

Pruessner and colleagues studied the brain activity of healthy volunteers from urban and rural areas. In a series of functional magnetic resonance experiments they showed that city living was associated with greater stress responses in the amygdala, an area of the brain involved with emotional regulation and mood.

In contrast, urban upbringing was found to be associated with activity in the cingulate cortex, a region involved in regulation of negative affect and stress.

“These findings suggest that different brain regions are sensitive to the experience of city living during different times across the lifespan,” said Pruessner.

“Future studies need to clarify the link between psychopathology and these affects in individuals with mental disorders.These findings contribute to our understanding of urban environmental risk for mental disorders and health in general. They further point to a new approach to interface social sciences, neurosciences and public policy to respond to the major health challenge of urbanization.”

Source: Douglas Mental Health University Institute

Biology Behind Urban Anxiety

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Biology Behind Urban Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 17, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/06/24/biology-behind-urban-anxiety/27223.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.