A Job in the City Could Be Harmful to Your (Mental) Health

mental health During hard times, when jobs are scarce, people have historically moved to the city, where the amount of commerce can mean more opportunity. If you've been considering making that move, you might want to think again -- recent research shows that people who live in the city have a far greater chance of having mental health issues than their country cousins: Two distinct brain regions that regulate emotion and stress are negatively affected by city living.

Living in a major urban area for a significant amount of time is associated with greater lifetime risk for anxiety and mood disorders, according to a new international study led by Canada's Douglas Mental Health University Institute researcher Jens Pruessner. "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," says Pruessner. "In addition, the incidence for schizophrenia is almost doubled."

Pruessner, with his colleagues from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, looked at 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, an urban upbringing was found to be associated with activity in the cingulate cortex, a region involved in regulation of negative affect and stress. Perhaps growing up in cities gives people's brains the chance to adapt to the pressures of city living. Those who move to the city later in life, may not have this advantage.

"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 respond to the major health challenge of urbanization," said Pruessner.

Who knew there was a major mental health challenge of urbanization? It make the prospect of earning more money by moving to the big city a little less appealing. When you factor that in with a lower cost of living in less populated areas, it makes country living that much more attractive.

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