City Living and Mental Health in History

  • Sandro Galea
  • Emily Goldmann
  • Andrea Maxwell

Cities have long been the subject of literary and academic interest as a powerful force shaping the health of populations. Writers from several eras in Western European history considered cities as places that were detrimental to health, and in many ways, for much of history, cities were characterized by features that were unquestionably linked to poor health. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819), an English romantic poet, observed that “Hell is a city much like London.” Indeed, a full collection of the writings that have denounced cites or deplored living conditions in cities would fill several volumes (Marsella, 1995).

It is worth considering why historically so many leading thinkers have considered that cities could be detrimental to health. Most of the early thought about cities and how they might unfavorably influence human health arose from the growing role played by cities in European life over much of the past millennium. As cities grew—particularly as the Industrial Revolution...


Mental Health Psychiatric Morbidity Social Connectedness Spatial Segregation World Trade Center 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful to Robin Konkle Mays for editorial assistance. Work on this chapter was funded in part by grants DA 02270, DA 017642, and MH078152 from the National Institutes of Health. This chapter is in part adapted from Galea, S., Bresnahan, M., & Susser, S. (2006). Mental health in the city. In N. Freudenberg, S. Galea, & D. N. Vlahov (Eds.), Cities and the health of the public (pp. 247–276). TN: Vanderbilt University Press.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Michigan, School of Public HealthAnn Arbor

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