Toxic Skies Ahead
May 29, 2023
Not only does urbanization impact mental health, but also physical health. From air pollution to cramped workspaces, the negative influences of cities on the human body are apparent.
“One of the issues we see in cities is that people aren’t moving enough. They tend to sit in front of technology for long periods, which increases the risk of a variety of adverse health effects, including things like diabetes and obesity,” said Dr. Alan Hedge, a professor emeritus of ergonomics at Cornell.
City jobs and workspaces encourage a sedentary lifestyle for its workers because employees have few opportunities to move around during the workday, creating a host of physical problems for them.
“There are four main problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Number one is back problems. Number two involves the hand and wrist. Number three revolves around vision, and number four is circadian problems,” Hedge said.
Back issues are typically attributed to incorrect postures and poorly designed office products, like chairs and desks. Hand and wrists problems include disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome, often caused by frequent mouse and keyboard usage.
Vision problems are usually caused by excessive use of electronic devices, specifically, overexposure to the blue light they emit. Circadian issues are also correlated to blue light emission; using devices right before bed changes your body’s internal clock, which can cause insomnia and daytime drowsiness.
There are four main problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Number one is back problems. Number two involves the hand and wrist. Number three revolves around vision, and number four is circadian problems.
— Dr. Alan Hedge
Aside from workplace injuries from office jobs, air pollution is another major concern in urban cities. Urbanization and cities have created more centralized populations, causing more pollutants to be emitted into the air surrounding cities.
Busy streets filled with aggressive honking are commonplace. Aside from its role as a common stressor to the mental health of urbanites, it also contributes to the air pollution found in cities and is detrimental to one’s physical health. This is observed through a study of over 57,000 women, which revealed that living near major roadways increases women’s risk for breast cancer. Cities often have more major roads, putting more people at risk of illnesses.
The World Health Organization has also discovered that air pollution is associated with 6.7 million deaths annually. They have named motor vehicles, household combustion devices, and forest fires as a few of the common factors for air pollution. Alongside the risk of breast cancer, air pollution also increases the risk of lung cancer, respiratory infections, and heart disease.
Air pollution’s increased risks for numerous severe illnesses and the fact that cities frequently serve as a hotspot for poor air quality reveals how urbanites will likely face more health risks than usual. The crowded environment is a means for more contributors to air pollution and more people suffering from these severe illnesses.
So how do all these problems tie into urbanization?
Urbanization has increased exposure to these problems and difficulties in resolving them. Several are infused within a city’s overall environment and culture, creating many hurdles when searching for solutions. Problems introduced by the sedentary lifestyle and air pollution are widespread, making them hard to counter. However, there is a solution.