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Depression rates lower in larger US cities, find researchers

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Washington | July 28, 2021 3:45:03 AM IST
It is commonly assumed that cities are detrimental to mental health but recent empirical research covering several US cities predicts lower depression rates in larger cities.

The research work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). The experts involved in the study were Andrew J. Stier, Kathryn E. Schertz, Nak Won Rim, Carlos Cardenas-Iniguez, Benjamin B. Lahey, Luis M. A. Bettencourt, and Marc G. Berman.

The researchers said that depression is the global leading cause of disability and related economic losses. Cities are associated with an increased risk for depression, but how do depression risks change between cities? Here, we develop a mathematical theory for how the built urban environment influences depression risk and predict lower depression rates in larger cities. We demonstrate that this model fits empirical data across four large-scale datasets in US cities.

If our model captures some of the underlying causal mechanisms, then these results suggest that depression within cities can be understood, in part, as a collective ecological phenomenon mediated by human social networks and their relationship to the urban built environment.

The researchers said that it is commonly assumed that cities are detrimental to mental health. However, the evidence remains inconsistent and at most, makes the case for differences between rural and urban environments as a whole. Here, we propose a model of depression driven by an individual's accumulated experience mediated by social networks.

The connection between observed systematic variations in socioeconomic networks and built environments with city size provides a link between urbanization and mental health. Surprisingly, this model predicts lower depression rates in larger cities, the experts said in the study.

We confirm this prediction for US cities using four independent datasets. These results are consistent with other behaviors associated with denser socioeconomic networks and suggest that larger cities provide a buffer against depression.

This approach introduces a systematic framework for conceptualizing and modeling mental health in complex physical and social networks, producing testable predictions for environmental and social determinants of mental health also applicable to other psychopathologies, the scientists said. (ANI)

 
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