Imagine a picture of well-being and healthy lifestyle. What do you see? A thriving metropolis or a more rural landscape, with plains, forests, mountains, maybe a watercourse? Even though more and more young people move to the metropolitan areas, most of the image of life in rural areas shares the healthier of the two. And many studies support those who claim that country life is useful right. My Canadian Pharmacy asked the environmental health doctor Sean Rees to comment on the risks for health and their avoidance for megalopolis dwellers.
Dr. Sean Rees points out that a study conducted by the Public Health Agency in 2007 shows that people living in cities live healthier, but are inferior to people in rural areas. Mental unhealth is more common in urban and suburban communities than in rural areas, many indicate stress as a cause. In smaller towns, people also depend on each other to a greater extent.
The study has also revealed clear differences in the lifestyle between people in the country and in cities. City people eat more or less healthily, but drink and smoke more and are no longer physically active. But people in the country are more likely to suffer from obesity.
A related American study showed an even clearer connection: the more sparsely inhabited an area is, the happier are the people who live there. The study, conducted by Rutgers University-Camden, analyzed data from 230 US counties. It turned out that the three happiest areas in the United States were all rural, while the three most unfortunate were metropolitan areas, including Brooklyn and Bronx in New York. The average rate was also higher in rural areas than in the cities.
But why does city life lead to mental health for so many? There is an explanation that closely ties to the high tempo, the noise, the artificial light, the exhaust gases and the lack of greenery. The answer is in the brain. A group of researchers from Germany and Canada discovered five years ago that it is actually possible to see differences in the brain between those who grew up in metropolitan areas and those who had a rural upbringing.
The biggest differences were seen in the Amy Valley, which, among other things, control the fear and feelings of threats, where greater activity could be measured, the bigger cities the subject grew up in. The study, published in the magazine Nature five years ago, clearly shows that it is harmful to the human brain to live in a big city.
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Another problem in bigger cities as seen by Dr. Reese and many other specialists in the professional community is the infiltration of toxic drugs in the environment. Medicines are built to influence different processes in our body. The ability to influence biological processes means that the drugs also affect other animal species. In order to reach and influence the right organs in the body, they also need to be so stable that they reach the target organ. The fact that they are built of stable substances make them stay in the environment for a long time.
With the exception of estrogenic hormones, the knowledge about the biological effects of the drug levels in sewage, rivers, lakes, groundwater and drinking water or in soil is inadequate. Internationally there are examples of serious examples of emissions from drug manufacturing.
The biggest problem is in low-wage countries such as China and India where large parts of the drugs are produced. But there have also been high levels of drug industries in other parts of the world, for example in Europe and in the United States. During and after use, most drugs are excreted from the body via urine and faeces. Sewage systems are therefore the largest pathway for drug residues to the environment.
The drugs are chemically stable and the pharmaceutical plants are not built to receive the drugs. The drug residues therefore pass the pharmaceutical plants and accompany the outgoing water without reducing the levels or changing their characteristics to a particularly high degree. Through the pharmaceutical plants, the residues that enter the sludge can be spread to farmland. How large quantities are spread in this way is unclear as well as how much is then taken up by the crops.
Pharmaceutical packaging may be a source of dispersion if it contains residues of medicines. Pharmaceutical waste (including packaging containing visible residues) is considered as hazardous waste and should be handled according to specific procedures.
Drug manufacturing is largely done in low-cost countries such as China and India. In recent years, production has been noted due to emissions that have a serious impact on animal and human health and the environment. Among other things, due to an increased risk of multiresistant (highly resistant) bacterial strains.
The assessment is that the levels we find today in the environment are not acute toxic to aquatic organisms. However, risk of long-term effects cannot be excluded. There are also results that show that long-term exposure to low levels of drugs has effects on aquatic organisms. There is also a need for more knowledge of the combined biological effects of different drugs in the environment. The drug’s ability to resist decomposition increases the risk of accumulation at such high levels that the environment is affected.
How dangerous they are, varies between different drugs. Among the medicines mentioned today are antibiotics and various hormone preparations. Antibiotics in the environment can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant (resistant) bacterial strains. These can then spread to disease-causing bacteria that become difficult to fight. They can then be a direct threat to our health. In addition, the natural composition of bacteria in the environment is likely to change. It can have effects on the entire ecosystem.
Hormones inhibit the propagation of aquatic organisms such as fish and mussels. Hormonal disorders have also been observed in male fish that have been feminized. The effects already occur at very low levels (around 1 ng / l). In addition, other chemicals may also have hormone-releasing effects on aquatic organisms, including phthalates, PCBs, dioxins and nonylphenols.
Countryside is much healthier than living in big cities, states Dr. Rees. The reasons for this are said to be several. Firstly, there are more air pollutants in the metropolitan areas, partly because people live less healthy and smoke and drink more, and are more easily exposed to stress factors. This means that we have the worst advantage over all major cities.
Dr. Rees concludes: “We are promoting and enjoying good childhood conditions, a safe environment, great conditions for outdoor activities and active leisure. But here is the real gold argument – move to countryside and live longer!”
“If not, try to engage in lifing your eyes and watch the clouds. And then I do not mean to sit and daydream. Cloudspotting is one of the latest trends, of course, from the United States. It’s about getting out and enjoying the beautiful clouds, colors and shapes of nature that nature offers. This may sound a bit fluffy, but according to The Cloud Appreciation Society, it makes wonders for the soul and health to relax for an hour and just sit and watch the clouds. And here we actually have gold argument number two in attracting new entrants: Just living in nature reduces the amount of stress hormones in the blood, relieves depression, gives better mood and more positive thoughts.”