Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui defines depression as an urban problem: How accurate is that?

Nobody gets depressed in the village, everyone is happy. I learned about the anxiety, depression, bipolar after I came to town, all of this happens in town. Everyone here glorifies their emotions. When it rains, a worker or sidewalk dweller dances, he knows nothing of depression. As you earn more money, you also get these kinds of diseases.

With this comment, actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui kicked up a storm on Twitter with some agreeing with him while others called him misinformed. Speaking first to Mashable India and then to NDTVthe Sacred Games actor called depression an urban problem and said he could be wrong, but it was his experience.

Actor Gulshan Devaiah took to Twitter to express his disappointment with his senior colleague. Dritharashtra and Gandhari syndrome. I respect the man immensely for his craft, but I don\’t take him seriously on this matter. If you even look at alcoholism or addictions, they exist in rural communities and that\’s a mental illness. No addict indulges in addiction because he loves it. Addiction is a symptom, the real problem is the trauma they can\’t heal, he wrote.

But is there any truth in what Nawazuddin Siddiqui said? Does living in the city contribute to poor mental health? Can urban living increase the chances of depression? Here\’s what we found out.

Urban living and mental health

In 2019, more than half of the world\’s population (4.2 billion people) was said to live in cities. This number has only increased since then and it is estimated that by 2050, 68% of the population will live in urban areas.

Several studies conducted in the past have highlighted that the residents of cities suffer from harmful effects such as cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases. The risk of getting cancer is also higher in cities; living under stressful conditions harms your health. When unhealthy fast food is cheap and healthy food is nowhere to be found, obesity rates rise. And obesity is linked to an increased risk of cancer.

But studies have also shown that urban living can have negative effects on mental health. The risk of developing depression, the most common mental disorder in the world, characterized by low mood and feeling helpless, is 20% higher in city dwellers than in those living outside the city.

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The risk of developing psychosis, a severe psychiatric disorder associated with hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and disorganized thinking, is 77% higher in urban dwellers than in rural dwellers. The risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder, a mental state characterized by anxiety and a sense of imminent danger or panic, is also 21% higher in urban dwellers than in rural areas.

A 2017 analysis also revealed that the rate of those experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anger management was highest among those living in urban areas.

Life in big cities offers constant stimulation, which can push the body into a fight-or-flight response. This makes us vulnerable to depression and other mental illnesses. Image used for representation/Pixabay purposes

Factors driving depression in cities

But what is it about cities or urban life that could increase the risk of depression? Mental health experts say there are a number of reasons why people in urban settings suffer more from depression than those in the village or countryside.

According to psychiatrists, urban life gives the brain a workout, which alters how we deal with stress. They note that the constant stimulation of large crowds, small spaces can push the body into a state known as a fight-or-flight response. This form makes us more vulnerable to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and even substance abuse.

Experts say that constant stimulation can also weaken a person\’s psychological system, which can be dangerous for those with a predisposition to depression.

Living in the city can also feel lonely, which can accelerate depression. Venkatesh Babu GM, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Fortis Hospitals said Hindu business lineLoneliness can be seen as both a cause and a consequence of various mental disorders, especially depression. Social isolation is a potent but poorly understood risk factor for morbidity and mortality.

Loneliness is widespread in cities, increasing the risk of depression. Image used for representation/Pixabay purposes

Explain that in rural areas, people cultivate their social networks with the people around them. However, the busy life of the city prevents people from forming meaningful social relationships. The pressures of work and the need to succeed also leave people with no time or inclination to cultivate social relationships.

Experts also say that reduced access to nature and reduced leisure time add to the urban dweller\’s problems, making them more prone to depression. Large crowds and overpopulation in cities can also lead to noise pollution, keeping people awake at night. This can also spell problems for a person\’s mental health.

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In the villages, too, all is not well

But that\’s not to say that Nawazuddin Siddiqui is right that rural dwellers don\’t have mental health problems. A 2023 study from the University of Houston indicated that Americans who live in more rural areas tend to be more anxious and depressed, as well as less open and more neurotic.

In India, the National Mental Health Survey (NHMS) 2015-16 states that 4.48% of people in rural India have had depressive disorders in their lifetime.

Psychiatrists say that due to a lack of educational facilities, people find it difficult to understand or even have awareness of mental health issues. They often equate mental illness with some form of karmic retribution or black magic. This often leads to stigmatization of the disease and people are often shunned by society.

In India, the National Mental Health Survey (NHMS) 2015-16 states that 4.48% of people in rural India have had depressive disorders in their lifetime. Image used for representation/Pixabay purposes

Further isolation is not only a phenomenon in urban areas. Limited access to the Internet and telephone service increases isolation in rural areas. Living in a rural area can mean constantly fearing an emergency and not being able to get help. Like their urban counterparts, rural residents may be at risk for depression.

In fact, another University of Chicago study found that people who live in big cities like Chicago and New York City are less likely to suffer from depression than those who live in rural areas.

As experts say, urban life is complex and contradictory. It offers great mental health benefits through increased opportunities in education and work. It is the first step towards realizing a person\’s full potential.

While Nawazuddin romanticized rustic life, his comments oversimplify a serious problem not only in the country, but also in the world. After all, depression, according to World Health Organization data in 2022, affects an estimated 280 million people worldwide, including about five percent of all adults.

With contributions from agencies

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