We’ve long known that the environments we live and work in impact our physical health—and that we can be harmed by things we may not even realize we’re being exposed to, like lead or air pollution.
It’s also not a new idea that our physical surroundings may weigh on our mental health as well. Back in the 1930s, two sociologists noticed a striking pattern amongst the people being admitted to Chicago’s asylums. Rates of schizophrenia, they reported, were unusually high in those born to inner-city neighborhoods. Since then, researchers have discovered that mental illnesses of all kinds are more common in densely populated cities than in greener and more rural areas. In fact, the Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health estimates that city dwellers face a nearly 40 percent higher risk of depression, 20 percent higher chance of anxiety, and double the risk of schizophrenia than people living in rural areas.