Quality of life

Stress in the big city

Morten Rudfred
Morten Rudfred
January 10, 2019

Massive urban growth can be tough on our health when buildings are of poor quality.

Big city urbanisation

There is a certain allure to living in the big city — magnificent structures and an efficient way of life represent the strides we’ve made in human imagination and community development. In fact, around 1.5 million people a week are moving to urban environments and by 2050, more than two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. 

However, rapid and unplanned urban growth has its drawbacks, and the enormous number of people being added to the global urban population puts a strain on modern living. This leads to increased levels of pollution and environmental degradation, along with unsustainable production and consumption patterns (World Urbanization Prospects, 2014). 

These challenges to our wellbeing, safety, and quality of life can also place significant stress on our mental health as we worry about various issues that affect how we live and work. Mental health is, on average, worse in urban environments. A relationship can be drawn between urbanisation and mental illness, as a higher prevalence rate of mental disorders can be observed in cities (Srivastava, 2009).

Each week, around

people are moving to urban environments

By 2050, more than

of the world’s population will live in cities

In order to facilitate urbanisation, while addressing quality of life indicators such as the standard of physical living conditions and the state of the natural environment (Eurostat, 2018), regeneration can be employed to make new and existing buildings healthier, safer, and more sustainable.

For example, buildings can be renovated to include more windows and fitted with light reflecting ceiling panels. This allows us to receive more natural light during the day, which has been proven to result in an extra 46 minutes of sleep at night. Introducing improved temperature regulation can also help us achieve better sleep by reaching an ideal indoor temperature. These factors are critical to enhancing our overall wellbeing, as poor sleep has been linked to various health problems (World Green Building Council, 2016). 

What’s more, an improvement in aesthetic quality of a neighbourhood can have a positive impact on one’s mind, explains Claus Bech-Danielsen, Professor at the Danish Building Research Institute (Upscaling Urban Regeneration, 2018). This is because old buildings from the 60s and 70s were built upon the idea of equality. However, our societal ideals have since changed and we each now strive to be unique. By renewing the designs of buildings to introduce diversity and individuality, we can keep people happy and, in turn, mentally healthy. 

The process of urbanisation has historically been associated with important economic and social transformations such as greater geographic mobility and longer life expectancy (World Urbanization Prospects, 2014). However, it also presents challenges that can prove to be stressful to people. 

Whether it’s tension from the harsh city noise, distress from poorly lit homes, or the anxiety we feel from unattractive buildings, urbanisation can be tough on our mental health. With the help of building renovations, we can reduce the mental strain caused by rapid and unplanned urban growth.


1. World Urbanization Prospects, 2014
2. Srivastava, 2009
3. Eurostat, 2018
4. World Green Building Council, 2016
5. Upscaling Urban Regeneration, 2018


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