Greater risk of Psychotic Disorders for City Dwellers

Past studies have shown a strong link between a lack of strong social ties – or “social fragmentation” – and suicide rates. Now, research suggests that people who reside in urban areas have a greater risk or developing a psychotic disorder. This appears to be due to the greater degree of social fragmentation that exists in cities, according to an article recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The incidence of schizophrenia has varied significantly throughout the world, but geographic patterns strongly show that it is lower in rural areas than in cities. In addition to social fragmentation, other factors that contribute to this may include deprivation, population, and ethnic density. Ethnic density pertains to the percentage of individuals belonging to a particular ethnic group in a neighborhood with multiple ethnic groups – other studies have shown that the smaller the percentage, the higher the rates of mental health issues and psychiatric hospitalizations for that ethnic group.

Stanley Zammit, Ph.D. of Cardiff University in Wales and his team examined various data of nearly 204,000 Swedish residents. Their goal was to determine whether personal, school, or area factors could explain the link between urban living and psychosis. They discovered that nonaffective psychotic disorders were more likely to develop in individuals who grew up in urban environments, and that area characteristics played a greater role than individual ones.

This research suggests that cohesion, a sense of safety, and a spirit of community play an important role in the mental health of individuals. The greatest area factor in the risk of psychosis for those living in urban areas was, in fact, social fragmentation – particularly at the school level.

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