Study links suburbia to depression risk 2023


A comprehensive investigation linked living environment to depression risks. Densely inhabited locations do not enhance mental health risk. Depression is linked to detached-house suburbs.

The study, published in Science Advances, uses a lot of sources. AI technology was used to analyze satellite photos of Denmark’s built-up areas from 1987 to 2017.

They categorized buildings by height and density. The three-dimensional urban shape from satellite photos was connected to Danish home addresses, health information, and socio-economic registries.

Inner-city environments do not increase depression risk.

Rural environments do not enhance mental illness risk either. After controlling for socioeconomic characteristics, medium-density urban locations had the greatest depression risk. Detached and terraced suburban neighborhoods have greater depression rates.

The study adjusted for depression risk variables such as having parents with a history of depression, being alone, or jobless.

After such an investigation, detached houses and terraced dwellings had 20-30% greater depression rates than sparsely populated locations, while suburban areas had 10-15% higher rates than inner-city areas.

Researchers think the results can aid urban planning.

“When we exclude all factors except the living environment, it becomes evident that neighborhoods with high depression rates are monotonous and typically lack gathering spots and bigger green spaces. We may now add mental health hazards to the myriad reasons to develop near green areas and water.

Common to areas with higher risk of depression is the lack of nature—green areas like parks, forests, and water bodies—and the properties are also more spaced out than in the cities. So, when building to promote mental health, densification is not necessarily negative, as it increases opportunities for social interaction. However, proximity to open spaces with nature and water is important.”

Stephan Barthel, professor of environmental science and research leader for Urban Sustainability at University of Gävle

“Even though we cannot predict individual risks, there is a significant correlation on an overall scale and over time,” explains Karl Samuelsson, PhD in environmental science.

The report does not recommend expanding car-dependent suburban regions with low-density housing. Densification must also be sensible. Karl Samuelsson recommends easy access to social activity and natural green spaces, including oceans and canals.

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