Stress and the city: Urban decay

 Scientists are testing the idea that the stress of modern city life is a breeding ground for psychosis.

In 1965, health authorities in Camberwell, a bustling quarter of London's southward sprawl, began an unusual tally. They started to keep case records for every person in the area who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder or any other psychiatric condition. Decades later, when psychiatrists looked back across the data, they saw a surprising trend: the incidence of schizophrenia had more or less doubled, from around 11 per 100,000 inhabitants per year in 1965 to 23 per 100,000 in 1997 — a period when there was no such rise in the general population (J. Boydell et al. Br. J. Psychiatry 182, 4549; 2003). The result raised a question in many researchers' minds: could the stress of city life be increasing the risk of schizophrenia and other mental-health disorders?

Nature | News Feature  Alison Abbott