over crowding
Posted: 29 September 2012 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Are Areas with too large populations bad for the human psyche?
Is it just the size of a city which could make it uncomfortable or could this be compensated through parks, lakes etc.?

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Posted: 29 September 2012 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Possibly.  I recall an experiment where they put increasing numbers of rats in a pen.  At first everything was fine, but as the crowding increased more and more of the rats would attack each other.  So, it’s quite possibly the population density.  Areas where one could get away from too many people might be worthwhile, however, if you have an overcrowded park, that might not accomplish anything.

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Posted: 29 September 2012 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I am not sure that crowded cities are in fact bad for the human psyche. If you look only at population size there does not seem to be a correlation between city size and murder for example ( see here - if you click on the column labelled population it will reorder the list according to city size). CIty size doesn’t necessarily equate to population density but there should be some correlation and it was the best data I could find.

There is reason to believe that densely populated cities may be better for the psyche of some people than sparsely populated rural areas. I for one dont particularly like city life which is why I live on a couple of acres in the suburbs, but there are people who crave the activity and opportunities available in a big crowded city. I recently heard a new resident who moved to our town from NYC complain that she had trouble sleeping at night because it was too quiet and the crickets drove her crazy. She found it very depressing that there were so few humans nearby.

If you are crowding people into a box from which they cant escape, I think the population density might correlate closely with decreasing mental health but when you are free to leave the box and within the box you have your own private space ( as in a city) it becomes a much more complex question and maybe one that is dependent on personal preference. I grew up in a semi rural area so I feel starved of nature if I am not in a green area with lots of trees. Someone who grew up in the city may feel very differently.

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Posted: 29 September 2012 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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If you take a place like Japan, which has a higher population density than the US, you can see some potential psychological problems developing from being closely crowded in with other people.  Japanese men will suddenly drop dead, from no obvious cause, but it appears to be linked closely to stress.  That could be driven primarily by cultural causes, and not necessarily being packed in tightly in a city, but separating out those cultural influences caused by living so tightly packed together, is a bit difficult to do.

Studies have shown that people with mental health and/or behavioral problems (including things like autism) often show improvement in more rural environments.  I think that a great deal depends upon how a city is structured, both in terms of park lands and society.  Humans have spent the bulk of history not living in densely packed cities, but in rural environments, so there’s going to be a predisposition to such environments deeply ingrained in our psyche.  We are, however, an adaptable species, so we certainly don’t need to fear living in cities.  What I think we need to do, is figure out exactly the right mix of developed and undeveloped spaces which make us happiest, and then model future city planning off that information.

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Posted: 01 October 2012 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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One problem I have with people assuming that the city size-murder rate correlation means cities are bad for the psyche is that no one ever seems to consider that maybe there are more murders in larger cities simply because their are more targets closer at hand. 

Also, I love cities.  I detest rural areas.  I hate having to drive 20 minutes to get anything.  I like being able to walk or ride a bike down to the store.  I also find them horribly boring.  There’s nothing to do.  Yay!  We can watch trees grow.  Hoo-effing-ray!

In other words, I agree with what macgyver was getting at: it depends on your personality more than anything.

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