Brain scans reveal extra stress of city living

A number of the prominent early sociologists were interested in how the shift from villages to cities would affect individuals and social interaction. A new brain scan study suggests those living in urban areas experience more stress than those living in rural areas:

Researchers have shown that the parts of the brain dealing with stress and emotion are affected by living among the crowds.

The findings help shed light on why those who are born and raised in urban areas are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and schizophrenia than those brought up in the countryside.

The team of international scientists behind the finding are unsure why city life is so bad for the nerves.

However, past studies have shown that exposure to green space reduces stress, boosts health and makes us less vulnerable to depression. The findings come from the brain scans of 32 healthy volunteers from urban and rural areas.

Several issues come to mind:

1. As the article notes, this is a rather small sample. We would need to see larger samples or more studies to confirm these findings.

2. Do suburban areas count as urban or rural in this study?

3. The article mentions several studies that suggest exposure to green space lowers stress levels. How much green space is needed: does a walk in an urban park like Central Park help? Can people drive through open fields to experience less stress?

4. Are people living in these different areas aware of these differing stress levels? People talk about “escaping it all” when they go on vacations but are they aware of when this might happen on a regular basis?

5. A common argument among environmentalists is that more dense, urban living cuts down on pollution and wasted resources. This may be true but will people on the other side now cite this kind of study as evidence for why urban living is not good?

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