How does living in urban areas impact your health?

General / Lifestyle choices

  5 Minutes

Around 70% of South Africans live in urban areas. Living in a town or city does offer many advantages. There is easier access to transport, shops, medical facilities, entertainment and, most importantly, jobs.

These positives do come with certain pitfalls though. Numerous studies have shown that living in urban areas can harm a person’s health and well-being. In this article, we will explore some of the common mental and physical health issues caused by living in cities. We will also look at ways you can support your health and wellness while living in a busy town or city.

The mental health toll:

The constant stimulation of living in an urban area can cause your body to live in a perpetual state of stress, also known as the flight-or-fight response. The never-ending noise, lights, traffic, people and pollution make city-dwellers more prone to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. If you have a family history of mental illness, environmental stress caused by urban living can further increase your risk of developing psychiatric conditions like bipolar disorder.

Living in a city can be very lonely and stressful. Social isolation, coupled with higher crime rates and cost of living all add to the mental health burden of people living in urban areas.

Cortisol and sleep quality:

Living in an urban area doesn’t just impact our mental health. Urban living affects our physical health too, and in ways you may not have thought of.

Living in a busy city that never seems to sleep will affect your sleep too. City dwellers are more likely to suffer from poor-quality sleep and even insomnia. Insomnia is the inability to sleep. Some sufferers battle to fall asleep and some battle to stay asleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to a weakened immune system, weight gain and hormonal imbalances.

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause your body to release more cortisol, the stress hormone. Nearly every cell in your body is affected by cortisol, and if your cortisol levels are too high for too long your health will suffer. Sustained high cortisol levels have been linked to insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and weight gain.

Environmental factors:

The air in the city is not as clean as the air in rural areas. This is a known fact. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called urban pollution levels a public health emergency. Almost every organ in your body is affected by poor air quality. Breathing in pollution causes inflammation, oxidative stress, immunosuppression, and mutation in cells throughout our body.

Evidence suggests that long-term exposure to polluted air can lead to certain cancers, diabetes, stroke, heart and lung disease.

Population Density:

When the number of people living in a city grows quickly it often outgrows the city’s ability to provide services and sanitation. The first people who suffer when this happens are the poor and vulnerable. They tend to live in the most deprived areas of the city and will often have poor or no access to clean water, sanitation and health services. This leads to the spread of disease, which spreads faster than in rural areas because people live closer together and share enclosed spaces like taxis.

Ways to protect your health

Ways to protect your health:

Get outside and get moving
Looking at concrete buildings all day, every day, is bad for your mental health. Find a local green space like a park or botanical gardens to spend some time in. Spending time in nature helps your brain reset and makes you more resilient to stress.

Exercise is an important part of your physical and mental health. Working out makes you happier, improves immunity and helps prevent heart disease and weight gain. Finding an exercise partner has the added bonus of providing social interaction that many city dwellers miss out on. If you don’t have a safe place to go for a walk or can’t afford a gym membership, look for an online exercise class.

Get a good night’s sleep
You need around eight hours of sleep every night, with 4-5 hours of that being deep, or REM sleep. If you wake up in the morning and you’re still tired, the chances are that you haven’t had enough REM sleep.

To ensure quality sleep, avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol. Eating late and going to bed with a full stomach can also cause insomnia. Have a warm bath or shower before bed time and make sure your room is dark enough. Invest in blockout curtains and put your phone down!

Consider Supplementing your health with

Bio-Strath Syrup


Bio-Strath: More than just a supplement for exam time, this 100% natural supplement contains 61 of the 100 nutrients your body needs daily to function at its best (think vitamins, amino-acids, building substances, minerals and trace elements). Bio-Strath strengthens and supports the immune system, reduces fatigue and stress and helps to increase vitality.


A.Vogel Multiforce Original


A.Vogel Muliforce Alkaline Powder: This is a source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as citrate and bicarbonate salts (alkalising minerals) and has a systemic alkalinising effect. It supports the body’s acid buffering mechanism by supplying essential alkaline minerals required to combat a typical acidogenic diet (high in animal protein and low/deficient in fruit, vegetables, and minerals) and lifestyle, thereby assisting in addressing the negative consequences thereof. We are convinced that Multiforce could be an important supplement to balance the modern lifestyle. Regular usage will ensure that you wear the essential mineral armour. Take one teaspoon in a glass of water every day in the evenings and support your body in its quest to rid itself of acid attacks and chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis.


A.Vogel Dormeasan


A.Vogel Dormeasan: A Western Herbal formulation for the relief of sleep disturbances, stress, and anxiety. Ingredients support the nervous system by having a calming action and address symptoms such as restlessness and anxiety and when taken at bedtime promotes restful sleep. A. Vogel Dormeasan is made from fresh, organic Valerian root and Hops, is non-habit forming and will not cause grogginess on waking the next morning.




Oxiprovin: A health supplement that contains grape seed extract. It is a source of antioxidants called oligomeric proanthocyanidins for the maintenance and preservation of good health and venous health. By protecting the body against oxidative stress, Oxiprovin directly protects cells, organs, and tissues from oxidative stress, reducing inflammation and restoring balance systemically throughout the body.

Did you know?

  • Antioxidants neutralise harmful free radicals thereby reducing oxidative stress and supporting metabolic health.
  • Antioxidants may assist individuals who follow a sedentary lifestyle, have a poor diet and high stress levels.


A.Vogel Neuroforce


A.Vogel Neuroforce: Is a homeopathic nerve tonic. The ingredients specifically address nervous tension and exhaustion during or after stressful events with hypersensitivity, agitation, and restlessness. Indicated for emotional symptoms such as grief, tearfulness, anger, resentment, irritability, anticipation, fear and depressed mood. It is recommended to support the nervous system during periods of stress, conflict or emotional strain or to use in situations of acute shock and trauma.


Living in an urban area can be stressful and damaging to your health, but it is also an exciting opportunity to expand your life experiences. If you are aware of the impact that urban living can have on your health, you can take the necessary steps to support your mind and body and safeguard your health.

References and additional reading:

  1. Delgado, C. (2021) Is city living bad for your health?, Discover Magazine. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2024).
  2. Fraga, J. (2019) How living in a city can mess with your mental health, Healthline. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2024).
  3. Health impacts (no date) World Health Organization. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2024).
  4. Park, W. (2022) How city life affects your health and happiness, BBC News. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2024).
  5. South Africa urban population 1960-2024 (no date) MacroTrends. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2024).
  6. Surprising lack of sleep side effects (2022) Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2024).
  7. Urban health (no date) World Health Organization. Available at: (Accessed: 27 June 2024).