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Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide, Volume II, Wellbeing and the Environment by Elizabeth Burton, Rachel Cooper, Cary L. Cooper

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2

Urban Neighborhoods and Mental Health across the Life Course

Erin Gilbert and Sandro Galea

Columbia University, U.S.A.

Over the past 50 years the growth of urban environments worldwide has been substantial. As economic opportunities have shifted from rural to urban areas there has been 2–3% growth on average in urban populations across the United States and worldwide [United Nations, D.O.E.A.S.A., Population Division (United Nations), 2012]. Consequently, the proportion of the U.S. population living in cities has increased from 65% in 1950 to 82% in 2012 and is projected to be 89% by 2050 (United Nations, 2012). These numbers are consistent and often more striking in lower- and middle-income countries around the globe. For example, urbanization in Argentina has led to an increase in the percentage of the total population living in urban areas from 65% in 1950 to 92% in 2012 (United Nations, 2012) and is projected to be 95% in 2050 (United Nations, 2012). The urban environment, including both physical and social environment, presents a unique set of exposures that directly and indirectly affects the mental health of individuals over the course of their lives from prenatal to older age. Urban physical environments are primarily, if not entirely, confined to the built environment or the spaces and structures planned and created by humans (Evans, 2003; Renalds, Smith, & Hale, 2010). The built environment consists of anything from apartment and office buildings to sidewalks and transportation ...

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