Rethinking Depression in Cities: Evidence and Theory for Lower Rates in Larger Urban Areas

32 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2020

See all articles by Andrew Stier

Andrew Stier

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology

Kathryn E. Schertz

Department of Psychology

Nak Won Rim

University of Chicago - Division of Social Sciences

Carlos Cardenas-Iniguez

Department of Psychology

Benjamin B. Lahey

University of Chicago

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Marc G. Berman

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology

Date Written: August 25, 2020

Abstract

It is commonly assumed that cities are detrimental to mental health. However, the evidence remains inconsistent and, at most, makes the case for differences between rural and urban environments as a whole. Here, we propose a model of depression driven by an individual’s accumulated experience mediated by social networks. The connection between observed systematic variations in socioeconomic networks and built environments with city size provides a link be- tween urbanization and mental health. Surprisingly, this model predicts lower depression rates in larger cities. We confirm this prediction for US cities using three independent datasets. These results are consistent with other behaviors associated with denser socioeconomic networks and suggest that larger cities provide a buffer against depression. This approach introduces a systematic framework for conceptualizing and modeling mental health in complex physical and social networks, producing testable predictions for environmental and social determinants of mental health also applicable to other psychopathologies.

Suggested Citation

Stier, Andrew and Schertz, Kathryn E. and Won Rim, Nak and Cardenas-Iniguez, Carlos and Lahey, Benjamin B. and Bettencourt, Luis and Berman, Marc G., Rethinking Depression in Cities: Evidence and Theory for Lower Rates in Larger Urban Areas (August 25, 2020). Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation Research Paper No. 22, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3680824 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3680824

Andrew Stier (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology ( email )

5848 S. University Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Kathryn E. Schertz

Department of Psychology ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Nak Won Rim

University of Chicago - Division of Social Sciences ( email )

Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Carlos Cardenas-Iniguez

Department of Psychology ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Benjamin B. Lahey

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Luis Bettencourt

University of Chicago - Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation ( email )

5735 S Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Marc G. Berman

University of Chicago - Department of Psychology ( email )

United States

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