How Life in a Metropolis Affects Our Health

In talking about the harmfulness of smoking or processed red meat, there is bound to be an argument that living in a city as a whole is harmful – and to some extent it is. Science is not just talking about the benefits of being in the fresh air for the heart and blood vessels, the quality of sleep, and the state of the psyche. Progressive doctors prescribe trips to nature as if hinting that from time to time we should run into the forest from cars and people. But the question of how harmful life is in the city is difficult to answer unequivocally. Various factors play a role, which no one considered in the aggregate. Let’s try to separate myths from facts and figure out whether it is worth selling my grandmother’s house in the village, or is it better to wait.

From noise and light to sleep disturbances

The noise outside the window can be very annoying, whether we are talking about a busy highway, a showdown near a stall, or an outgoing neighbor’s dog. First of all, it disrupts the structure and subjective quality of sleep, provoking daytime sleepiness and, in the long term, endocrine and metabolic problems.

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In terms of light, statistics show that people living in illuminated areas with lots of neon signs are more likely to report sleep disturbances. Although a causal relationship has not yet been established, its discovery remains a matter of time, given that urban dwellers are exposed to light 3-6 times more than villagers. On the other hand, overly lit nights cannot be considered the root of all problems. People in cities may sleep poorly for many reasons, including stressful overloads that interfere with normal sleep-wake cycles and increase the risk of inflammation in the body.

Subway survival

Imagine the number of microbes living in the subway. There are indeed many of them, and each subway line has its own flora, and during the day the bacteria exchange data to develop antibiotic resistance. Luckily for us, we don’t have to worry too much about this. For safety reasons, it is sufficient to keep your hands away from mucous membranes until they are washed or if the nose is suddenly impossible to itch, use a hand sanitizer.

There is a so-called hygiene hypothesis – it is that exposure to microbes at an early age teaches the immune system to be more effective. True, it was confirmed only for rural areas: children who grew up on a farm are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma. Recently, scientists are increasingly saying that the hygiene hypothesis is generally not entirely correct.

City and stress

The reason for the deterioration of mental health in urban environments may be that the brains of urban dwellers become more susceptible to stress over time. Chronic stress also accelerates the aging process of cells, providing townspeople with more pronounced age-related pigmentation and deeper wrinkles than villagers. The good news is that even small green islands in a busy city can improve our condition, especially if we connect physical activity in the form of a bicycle or skateboard.

In some ways, the city may even be useful

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Thus, urban dwellers are less likely to exceed the medical norm of weight due to the high standard of living and the quality of nutrition. Old age in the city will also be more pleasant since there is no social isolation characteristic of the countryside. Also, urban dwellers may have a better functioning digestive system. Some evolutionists think that the once-excellent lactose tolerance was the beneficial mutation that helped people to leave the nomadic lifestyle and move to cities where farming was the main occupation and dairy products were the main source of food.

Anastasia Fetter

Anastasia Fetter