Chapter 10 Psychosocial Effects of Urban Environments, Noise, and Crowding
Hugh L. Freeman Green College, Oxford, United Kingdom Stephen A. Stansfeld University College London Medical School
The relationship of physical health to the structural environment is reasonably well understood in terms of water supply, sewage disposal, protection from weather, and so on. But the complex and interrelated causes of the psychological and social pathologies that seem increasingly to plague urban areas have yet to be fully identified.
The social environment has been defined as consisting of "the norms, values, customs, fashions, habits (which might include work), prejudices, and beliefs of a society" ( Burke, 1990). Although these vary enormously from one society to another, "in each one, their profile will be more or less supportive of health. They are modulated through the mass media . . . and institutionalized in the family, the community (which may be defined ethnically as well as geographically) and the nation" ( Burke, 1990).
Mental health can be defined in innumerable ways -- most of them too vague or too idealized to be of much value. Practical scientific considerations, however, require it to be used primarily in terms of emotional symptoms such as anxiety or depression that people report; if environmental changes in an area resulted in significant reductions in the levels of these