Environmental effects on mental health and illness
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The battle between nature and nurture is an eternal, ideological struggle within the realm of mental health care. With a greater acceptance of holistic perspectives in the modern age, the current and commonly accepted answer is that psychological ailments are caused by a combination of internal and external elements. However, there are a lot of different disorders, each with their own specialized set of symptoms. With the latest and greatest technology available in the research field today, some research has begun to explore if an individual’s physical setting is a significant influence on the human mind and its well-being.

Overall, the relationship between mental disorder and one’s physical surroundings is strongly contested. The most significant contention is between two particular studies. The first was conducted by the University of Cambridge in 2000. It surveyed almost 10,000 British households in urban, rural and intermediate regions. While specifically measuring psychiatric illnesses in each area, the researchers found that those of urban environments reported more mental morbidity as well as problems with dependency. Urban participants were a part of struggling socioeconomic groups that faced more adverse and stressful circumstances. Some of these external factors could also lead to certain mental illnesses. However, these noticeable differences disappeared after using logistic regression and there were no significant discrepancies in treatment outcomes.

These conclusions were then contradicted by a later study. In 2006, the prevalence of depression was compared between rural and urban locales within the U.S. Using data from a 1999 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) that questioned over 30,000 adults, this team of scholars discovered that an estimated 2.6 million rural residents are diagnosed with depression. Furthermore, the initial frequency of the disorder was significantly higher in rural rather than urban communities, with 6.1 percent in the former and 5.2 percent in the latter. However, after the data were adjusted for population characteristics, the higher chance of depression within nonmetropolitan areas dissolved similarly as the Cambridge study’s findings did. In fact, it was those with poorer self-reported health, hypertension and related limitations within the previous year that were most associated with a risk of developing depressive symptoms.

Evidence of the environment’s less prominent role

These confounded findings are further supported by a collection of studies that did not find any noticeable health differences between groups living in cities and those residing out in the countryside. As a result of detailed phone interviews, a 2013 research article was published with the documented mental illnesses within the state of Georgia’s metropolitan, urban and rural populations. While the study did find substantial correlations between mental health disorders such as depression and particular factors like lower education, it did not detect an association with “urbanicity.”

One of the most explicitly measured comparisons between urban and rural communities was conducted by a collection of European institutes and universities in 2001. One of its primary findings was that psychotic symptoms were strongly and independently associated with psychotic disorders, regardless of the level of urbanization. Another study even observed the environmental influence from a developmental perspective. After analyzing the expressed behaviors of parents and their children, the team of researchers found few differences in the prevalence of problems and other disturbances in both urban and rural areas. Altogether, these scientific endeavors have supported over time that an individual’s state of mind does not determine his or her setting

From this increasing amount of evidence, it could be said that although a person’s environment does influence and impact many facets of his or her experiences, the onset of serious mental disorders may be more attributable to other factors. Studies like these aid in understanding how psychological pathologies develop and how treatment providers can stop them from doing so. Also, the academic arguments over this topic encourage future research to delve deeper and settle the discrepancies in a more definitive manner.

Sovereign Health Group is one of the leading treatment providers in the state that offers detox, residential treatment, inpatient and outpatient programs and a host of other recovery strategies that help manage a wide range of mental disorders and substance addictions. By viewing mental illness through a systemic perspective, Sovereign is able to offer a holistic, comprehensive approach to its clients. If you or a loved one wonders if treatment is right for your needs, do not hesitate to contact our helpline online or call (866) 819-0427. Our representatives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer any questions or concerns.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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