Project Areas

Urbanisation

Mental diseases with stress-related origins occur more frequently in cities than in rural areas. In order to explore urban mental health issues and bring together city planners and psychiatrists, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and its partners have initiated the interdisciplinary forum ‘Neuro-Urbanism’ and the event series ‘Stress and the City’.

Mazda Adli

Our cities are growing and we know: City life influences our behavior, our emotions and our psychological well-being. The brain of an urban dweller reacts differently to social stress than that of a rural dweller. Whether this is also the reason for the aggregation of some stress sequelae in cities is a question that we want to answer with Neuro-Urbanism, a new discipline assembling neurologists, urban researchers and architects.

Dr Mazda Adli, Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group at the Charité Berlin and Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin

Further Information

Contact

Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft
Elisabeth Mansfeld
Urbanisation


T. +49 (0)30 3407 3402
elisabeth.mansfeld@db.com

Partners

The Interdisciplinary Forum on Neuro-Urbanism is a joint initiative by the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Further partners are the Technische Universität Berlin and the Theodor Fliedner Stiftung.

Links and Publications

The Lancet Psychiatry, March 2017:
Mazda Adli et. al: Neurourbanism: towards a new discipline.
http://bit.ly/2nd7yAd

Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 2017. Oliver Gruebner et al.: Risiko für psychische Erkrankungen in Städten.

Die Psychiatrie, Heft 2 2016. Mazda Adli et al.:Neurourbanistik - ein methodischer Schulterschluss zwischen Stadtplanung und Neurowissenschaften.

Mazda Adli, Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group at the Charité Berlin and Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin Official Website

It is high time to better explore the impact of urban environments on emotions, cognitions, and behaviour and thus on mental health, to make this impact measurable, to identify specific at-risk groups, and to develop prevention and even therapeutic strategies. What is needed most of all is the cooperation of city planners and architects with psychiatrists and psychologists.

Mental diseases that can be assumed to have stress-related origins occur more frequently in cities than in rural areas. As an example, city dwellers have a 39% higher risk of developing affective disorders and a 21% higher risk of anxiety disorders.
Urban planning approaches that disregard criteria for adequate stress exposure run the risk of further increasing the social stress felt by a city’s inhabitants. It is therefore high time to better explore the impact of urban environments on emotions, cognitions, and behaviour and thus on mental health, to make this impact measurable, to identify specific at-risk groups, and to develop prevention and even therapeutic strategies. What is needed most of all is the cooperation of city planners and architects with psychiatrists and psychologists.
For this reason, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft initiated the interdisciplinary Forum ‘Neuro-Urbanism’, which already held seven closed workshops throughout 2015, with more to follow.
jammed subway berlin

 An overcrowded underground train in Berlin

Further Information

Contact

Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft
Elisabeth Mansfeld
Urbanisation


T. +49 (0)30 3407 3402
elisabeth.mansfeld@db.com

Partners

The Interdisciplinary Forum on Neuro-Urbanism is a joint initiative by the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Publications

Mazda Adli, Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group at the Charité Berlin and Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin
Official Website

Does city life make us ill? As a matter of fact, several mental diseases occur more often in urban areas than on the countryside. The brain of city dwellers does apparently react to stress in a different way than the brain of rural inhabitants. At the same time, urban populations benefit from the unique possibilities of city life – like culture and education, access to a wide range of medical care and, more generally, broader options for personal development.

In his new book “Stress and the City”, Mazda Adli explains how our brain processes the permanent stimuli of the city. What exactly is urban stress, and how does it touch us? Which roles assume infrastructure, social structures, culture, health care and architecture in making cites not only an attractive, but also a healthy living environment? In a lecture and book launch in the Q Club at Deutsche Bank’s “Quartier Zukunft”, author Mazda Adli discussed these and other questions with the futurologist Ludwig Engel, the urban sociologist Martina Löw and the architect Jürgen Mayer H.

„Stress and the City“ is a result of Mazda Adli’s work in the interdisciplinary Forum on Neuro-Urbanism: „Neuro-Urbanism is a new term to describe something that didn’t use to exist: a collaborative effort by urban researchers, architects and neuroscientists.

COVER_Adli_Stress-and-the-City_3D_574x410.jpg

In a nutshell, Neuro-Urbanism is the scientific study of the interplay between the social environment we have constructed and our psychological state of mind, emotions, behaviors and thoughts.” The interdisciplinary Forum on Neuro-Urbanism was founded in 2015 by Mazda Adli, Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and other experts.

„Stress and the City“ – book launch at Q Club in „Quartier Zukunft“ of Deutschen Bank in Berlin on 10 May 2017.
Invitation only.

Contact

Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft
Elisabeth Mansfeld
Urbanisation


T. +49 (0)30 3407 3402
elisabeth.mansfeld@db.com

Partners

The Interdisciplinary Forum on Neuro-Urbanism is a joint initiative by the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Further partners are the Technische Universität Berlin and the Theodor Fliedner Stiftung.

Links and Publications

The Lancet Psychiatry, March 2017:
Mazda Adli et. al: Neurourbanism: towards a new discipline.
http://bit.ly/2nd7yAd

Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 2017. Oliver Gruebner et al.: Risiko für psychische Erkrankungen in Städten.

Die Psychiatrie, Heft 2 2016. Mazda Adli et al.:Neurourbanistik - ein methodischer Schulterschluss zwischen Stadtplanung und Neurowissenschaften.

Mazda Adli, Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group at the Charité Berlin and Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin Official Website

Stress and the City:
Flight Migration and Mental Health
An interdisciplinary workshop during
the World Health Summit 2015 in Berlin

The rapidly growing cities of our world are the primary destinations for both intra- and interregional migration including flight. Particularly the last two years have witnessed substantial migration movements and the advent of refugees to Europe. Against this background cities are the essential integration motors of our societies. City authorities and health care services in particular have to deal with populations who are frequently traumatized, present with culture and language barriers, suffer from poverty and experience social exclusion. If the governance of integration processes fails, social conflicts and mistrust between residents and migrants frequently impact the social cohesion of urban areas and challenge mental health of all residents. Therefore cities are in need of public mental health strategies which take migration processes under clear consideration.
workshop at foreign office
The workshop was held at the German Federal Foreign Office during the World Health Summit 2015.
This workshop, which took place on 13 October 2015 at the German Federal Foreign Office during the World Health Summit 2015, brought together views and lessons from mental health care and psychiatry, social sciences and governance and aims at developing consequences from an interdisciplinary debate.
Jacqueline Weekers IOM

 Jacqueline Weekers from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)

weiland adli friedländer

Author and Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer with workshop facilitators Mazda Adli of the Charité - Universitätsmedizin and the Fliedner Klinik Berlin and Ute Weiland of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft (left to right)

Jointly hosted by the Fliedner Klinik Berlin and the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, a member of the M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities and National Academies, the workshop was chaired by Dr Mazda Adli, Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group at the Charité Berlin and Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin, and Sir Robin Murray, Professor for Psychosis Studies at King’s College London.
robin murray

Prof Dr Sir Robin Murray (left), Professor for Psychosis Studies at King's College London, co-hosted the workshop.

Speakers included Prof. Dr. Andreas Heinz, Director of the Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Dr. Kenneth Miller, Senior Psychosocial Advisor for War Child Holland, Jacqueline Weekers, Senior Migration Health Policy Advisor at the Migration Health Division of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Ute Weiland, Deputy Managing Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft.

Further Information

Contact

Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft
Elisabeth Mansfeld
Urbanisation


T. +49 (0)30 3407 3402
elisabeth.mansfeld@db.com

Partners

This workshop was jointly organised by the Theodor Fliedner Stiftung, the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft during
the World Health Summit 2015 in Berlin.

World Health Summit, 11-13 October 2015, in Berlin

Video

Please find the official youtube video from the workshop at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, 13/10/15, here

Stress and the City:
Mental Health in Urban Environments
A metropolitan evening during the
Berlin Foundation Week 2014

Recent neuroscientific research indicates that city life affects the way in which emotions and stress are processed in the brain.

Urban dwellers seem to have a higher stress responsiveness than rural inhabitants. If this is to the higher odds of suffering from certain stress-associated disorders - i.e. depression, anxiety disorders or schizophrenia - is not yet known. Therefore, a better understanding of what exactly is health-relevant urban stress and which factors of city life are health-protective is urgently needed.

Ute Weiland Stress and the City
Stress and the City Panelists
Stress Panel
Those topics were discussed by Richard Sennett, Sociologist at New York University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, Mazda Adli, Psychiatrist and Stress Researcher at Fliedner Klinik Berlin and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Mario Czaja, Berlin Senator of Health and Social Services, Jens Redmer, Head of New Products and Solutions at Google Inc. and Sissel Tolaas, Smell Researcher at SMELL re_searchLab and at Harvard Harvard Business School. The panel was moderated by Elisabeth Niejahr, correspondent at the Berlin office of the magazine DIE ZEIT.
Sennett

The „Stress and the City“ series continued in the framework of this year’s Berlin Foundation Week and sought the exchange between urban disciplines, neuroscience and politics. Moreover, the perspectives and limits of generating emotional or psychological city maps were in the focus of this event.

Further Information

Contact

Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft
Elisabeth Mansfeld
Urbanisation


T. +49 (0)30 3407 3402
elisabeth.mansfeld@db.com

Partners

„Stress and the City“ is a joint initiative by the Theodor Fliedner Stiftung, the Allianz Foundation Forum, the Berlin Research Network on Depression, the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft.

Event details

7 April 2014

Allianz Forum

Pariser Platz 6, 10117 Berlin

City dwellers’ brains react differently to stress than country dwellers’ brains. What connection could there be between urban life and mental disorders?

More and more people are living in cities. Certain mental disorders occur more frequently in urban areas, and city dwellers’ brains react differently to stress than country dwellers’ brains. What connection could there be between urban life and mental disorders? How can we gain new knowledge in this field? Read an excerpt from an interview with Dr Mazda Adli, a lecturer and co-founder of the Neuro-Urbanism Forum. Adli is Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin and the Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, at the Charité Berlin.

In 2015, you and the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft founded the Interdisciplinary Forum on Neuro-Urbanism. What does “Neuro-Urbanism” mean?

“Neuro-Urbanism” is a new term to describe something that didn’t used to exist: a collaborative effort by urban researchers, architects and neuroscientists. In a nutshell, Neuro-Urbanism is the scientific study of the interplay between the social environment we have constructed and our psychological state of mind, emotions, behaviours and thoughts.

Which scientific fields of study are involved in this forum?

The forum brings together architects, urban planners and neuroscientists – including psychiatrists and psychologists – as well as a futurologist, a sociologist, a smell researcher, a philosopher and a public health expert. You could say that Neuro-Urbanism unites researchers in various urban fields of study with neuroscientists.

What is urban stress exactly? Could you illustrate it for us?

Urban stress is hidden stress. It’s not a type of stress that is immediately apparent, but rather a type of stress that creeps up on us without us noticing. It’s a chronic type of stress that appears where social density and social isolation occur at the same time. There are people who are completely exposed to urban stress. They have no means of escaping the noise or confinement. They have no access to what we call “urban advantage”. These can be the elderly, the ill or the poor, or even people with a migrant background. Picture it as living in a neighbourhood where you can hear your neighbours’ noise through the thin walls of your home. Social stress develops if you don’t have any real contact to these neighbours. There’s also social stress in our well-ordered everyday lives, too, of course – like when you’re tightly packed into the underground on your way to work and five people are standing around you, coughing. But this stress doesn’t make you ill as long as you know that the situation is temporary, and you will be home soon enough and can shut the door behind you, if that’s what you want to do. It does make you ill if you feel completely exposed to social stress.

That sounds, above all, like a social problem.

We’re dealing with the issue of places where people can go to enjoy some peace and quiet, as well as with a lack of opportunities for interaction. Designing public places to encourage people to come in contact with each other isn’t all that difficult or expensive. There are lots of examples of this. Think of the bookshelf event on the Bebelplatz or karaoke in the Mauerpark here in Berlin. They attract a huge crowd. Or think of Bryant Park in New York, where they’ve set out chairs that aren’t bolted down. Anyone can pick one up and put it where they want. You can push them together to form groups or look for a secluded spot in the shade. The space has been very popular since they added these chairs.

Pressefoto_MazdaAdli_V.jpg

In everyday life, the way people perceive stress often appears to be a very subjective matter. Is it even possible to generalise it?

Stress research is about objectifying stress. That is indeed possible. You can measure stress levels and reactions through stress hormones such as cortisol, or by looking at other vegetative symptoms such as skin conductance or pulse rate. The role a stress factor plays is, indeed, highly subjective. In some people, a tiny change in everyday routines or the environment lead to a pronounced stress reaction, which triggers a massive release of cortisol that lasts for a long time and takes a while to subside. In others, stress barely triggers a change in cortisol levels. This is another thing we want to find out: How can it be that a stressor triggers different reactions? Urban life appears to play a role in this. It essentially modulates the way in which we react to stress.

Does this mean we should avoid urban life?

No, not at all. This doesn’t mean that urban life is fundamentally harmful. Rather, it changes the way we react to stress. On the contrary, you could even say that urban life does most of us good. Cities give people better opportunities to grow and develop their personalities. They also offer better educational opportunities, and education is closely linked to health, as has been demonstrated time and again. You’ll also find greater prosperity in cities, which is another factor that has a positive impact on health. Cities also offer better access to healthcare. Usually, the nearest doctor, hospital or psychotherapist isn’t far away. But just 50 kilometres outside of Berlin, for example, it can be virtually impossible to find a psychotherapist.

To what extent do you hope to gain insights in Berlin that can be transposed to other cities that may be very different?

Berlin isn’t Mumbai, and it isn’t Sao Paolo. The major megacities in the global south are a whole other story. They’re probably far richer in terms of stressors. Nevertheless, the studies examining stress-related disorders currently tend to be performed in major cities in the global north, such as London, Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Even in these relatively moderate cities of the global north, researchers have found a clear cluster of stress-related disorders compared to rural areas. It’s safe to assume that the differences will be even greater in the south. But we can even transpose our findings in a city like Berlin to larger cities or cities with a challenging social fabric. At the very least, it allows us to draw conclusions. Berlin is the largest city in Germany, and that’s reason enough for us to perform the study here and to try to understand how we can transpose the findings.

What are your medium-term hopes for the findings of the Neuro-Urbanism Forum?

My hope is that we will have systematic research on the wide range of topics behind Neuro-Urbanism and a common research programme, and that the research we are currently doing on a very small scale will be pursued on a larger scale. Right now, our work is mainly being fuelled by the idealism of a few protagonists. Going forward, I also hope to add the political spectrum to our circle. Over time, our research will grow into a political call for action. Our findings are tremendously relevant for the development of public spaces.

Interview: Dr. Barbara Olfe-Kräutlein

Download the entire interview here.