Could bad buildings damage your mental health?

Could bad buildings damage your mental health?
The Barbican estate in London has been labelled ugly by some, but it’s full of greenery and public space / © Sophia Evans

Research has shown city dwellers are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression – but could individual buildings have a negative impact on wellbeing?

Screaming sirens, overcrowding, traffic; life in the city isn’t always relaxing.

These stressors aren’t simply inconvenient or irritating, though; research has suggested that urban living has a significant impact on mental health. One meta-analysis found that those living in cities were 21% more likely to experience an anxiety disorder – mood disorders were even higher, at 39%. People who grew up in a city are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as those who grew up in the countryside, with a 2005 study suggesting this link may even be causal.

Urban stressors appear to have a biological impact, too. A 2011 study from the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg found that city living was associated with greater stress responses in both the amygdala and the cingulate cortex – areas linked to emotional regulation, depression and anxiety. This increased activation, the research team said, could have a “lasting effect”, both on the brain’s development and its ongoing susceptibility to mental illness.

The studies are part of a wider field of environmental psychology that seeks to understand how individuals interact with their environments, and how those environments can affect our social lives, relationships and even our mental health. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.

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