ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY: Explore the Ways that a Person’s Living Environment can Cause Physical or Psychological Harm (as in a polluted section of town) or Healing
Environmental psychology studies the relationship between the patterns of human beings and the environment. It determines how environment shapes behaviors of people at various levels. These levels include immediate behavior and long term behavior. Immediate behavior is influenced by the working of the physical setting where a certain behavior occurs. Long term behavior such as an individual’s personality is influenced by subjecting an individual to certain environment for a long period of time. Environmental psychology focuses on identifying a problem and then provides a solution to the issue. Environmental psychology works to resolve various environmental issues including noise pollution, urban crowding and density, urban decay and the living standards. Urban crowding or the architectural design of cities or public schools can cause psychological effects such as stress-related illness (Cassidy, 2013). Noise pollution can lead to increased environmental stress affecting mental health. Discovering solutions to the issues affecting members of society can promote better functioning of society and provides people with awareness about the internal workings of societies. Environmental psychologists have the responsibility of studying the problems that arise in the daily lives of members in society and determine solutions to these problems. Applied environmental psychology provides professionals with norms that enhance effective management of the environment to develop personality and provide better life. In addition, it provides efficient ways of conserving the natural environment and use better designs for towns and cities by taking into consideration the responses and the behavioral needs of the people. Furthermore, applied environmental psychology as well studies effective ways of enhancing environmental awareness among people in society (Steg, van den Berg & De Groot, 2012).
Ways that a Person’s Living Environment can Cause Physical or Psychological Harm
A person’s living environment can result in psychological or psychological harm. Physical and psychological harm have an impact on the overall health and well-being of individuals. Studies reveal that the artificial features and population density in urban areas can lead to development of mental health problems and increased crime rates that result in psychological harm and physical harm respectively. Urban conditions have huge influence on people’s behaviors and thus individuals living in overpopulated areas of towns are more likely to experience breakdown of their behavior patterns. For instance, studies have indicated that rapid urbanization contributes to prevalence of schizophrenia and mental illnesses. Several crime rates in cities have also been associated with stress that results from urban overcrowding. Incidences of rising violence towards their children are evident in the increased rates of children battering by their mothers and high rates of divorce cases also reflect on the breakdown of people’s behaviors in society. Such an environment provides people with feelings of anxiety, discouragement and eventually depression thus affecting their psychological and physical health (Lovallo, 2015).
Unclean environment has harmful impacts on psychological and physical health of individuals. People living in unclean areas in cities such as slums often experience various difficulties and this could affect their well being. For instance, people living in slums experience shortage of clean water and poor quality of air caused by the bad smell emanating from wastes and sewage. Such situation can limit people’s freedom and mobility and result in increased spread of diseases thus leads to psychological effects. Unclean places may contain disposed waste materials such as needles or other sharp objects that can injure people especially children living in such places. The inability of people to control such situations can results in increased level of stress among individuals thus impacting negatively on mental well being of people (Zivin & Neidell, 2013).
People living in polluted areas in town are exposed to conditions that can result in physical or psychological harm. Areas with factories can experience high rates of air pollution from chemical gases emitted from these activities. Additionally, areas with heavy traffic leads to production of increased rates of exhaust fumes that pollute the air. Air pollution impacts adversely on human life by causing development of various diseases such as respiratory problems and cancer, which are very expensive to treat. Additionally people living in areas with heavy smokers can impact negatively on their health. Cigars and cigarettes produce carbon monoxide gas which is very poisonous thus dangerous to life. Non-smokers are exposed to high risks of contacting respiratory diseases, lung diseases, bronchitis and asthma. Such environmental conditions stimulate the development of mental illness among people thus affecting their psychological health (Morelli, Rieux, Cyrys, Forsberg & Slama, 2016).Polluted air produces acid rain, which is very harmful to the environment. Acid rain destroys building materials, kills plant crops and trees, makes soils acidic, affecting agricultural production, and pollutes water sources such as rivers, seas and oceans. People living in areas with high levels of pesticides are exposed to diseases such as damaging nerves, cancer and birth defects. Pesticides contain chemicals that affect the food quality and are harmful to human health. Children are most affected with exposure to pesticides because their body organs are still developing. An area with industries that releases high levels of mercury into water sources affects the quality of marine foods such as fish. Thus consuming fish and other sea foods containing high levels of mercury have serious physical and psychological harm such as affecting nervous system and the brain (Zhuang, Cox, Cruz, Dearing, Hamm & Upham, 2016).
Studies reveal that physical environments determine the wellbeing of individuals whereby it can either increase or reduce stress among people. Increased levels of stress affect the body of people in several ways. High concentrations of pollutants damage the ozone layer affecting the ability of the atmosphere to absorb the ultra violet rays from the sun. Ultraviolent rays which have enormous impacts on physical health of individuals. It exposes individuals to increased risks of developing skin cancer such as melanoma. Such diseases can increase agitation and anxiety thus affecting physical and psychological health of people. According to (Zhuang, Cox, Cruz, Dearing, Hamm & Upham, 2016), urban sprawls have potential health implications. Therefore, people living in areas experiencing urban sprawl have high health risks. Urban sprawl is characterized by heavy use of motor vehicles that causes air pollution, which affects health of individuals. Also, urban sprawl is characterized by reduced mobility, which hinders ability of people to engage in various physical activities such as walking and exercising. Reduced physical activities have major impacts on physical health including contributing to diabetes and obesity. Consequently, urban sprawl increases traffic, which poses potential risks to pedestrian injuries due to increased traffic accidents. Additionally, Morelli, Rieux, Cyrys, Forsberg and Slama (2016) indicate that reduced movements caused by urban sprawl poses physical and social risks such as increased poverty, low medical services and threats of substance use and increased crime rates, which can lead to development of mental health problems living in these environments.
Home environments can as well impact on psychology and physical health of people. People living in home environments where there are high products of combustion and other pollutants expose people to physical or psychological harm. For instance, gas fires can lead to physical harm due to burning that result from these fires. Additionally, certain building materials used in towns may fail to liberate gases that lead to increased respiratory morbidity. Additionally, people in homes with dusts and mould facilitate development of chronic conditions such as allergies or asthma. Homes that have poorly ventilated fireplaces can lead to risks of pulmonary diseases. Secondhand smokes in homes produce chemicals that cause cancer. People living in buildings constructed with materials including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) results in development of cancer. Similarly, materials such as formaldehyde cause increased risk of development of severe allergic reactions, irritation of nose, eye and throat, skin rush and fatigue. People living in areas especially in older building experience problems of poor water quality. Lead pipes are often used in older construction thus water transmitted through these pipes contain lead which cause harmful effects to physical and psychological health of individuals such as affecting red blood cells, kidneys, brain and nervous system (Gong, Palmer, Gallacher, Marsden & Fone, 2016).
People living in noise polluted areas are exposed to physical and psychological harm. People living near industries, airports and busy highways are the most affected by noise pollution. Noise can impair with hearing ability especially among children residing in worksite areas. Continuous exposure of individuals to excess noise can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Studies also reveal that long term exposure to noise pollution can affect psychological functioning among adults and the cognitive development among children. High levels of noise as well affect the ability of learners to concentrate thus impacting negatively on their psychology.Forns, Dadvand, Foraster, Alvarez-Pedrerol, Rivas, López-Vicente and Grellier (2016) states that noise increase stress among people resulting in psychological or physical harm. Long term stress can lead to development of serous disorders such as stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease. Similarly, visual “noise” that results from a dirty or cluttered environment can create a confusing environment that makes people feel helpless, sad or worried thus increasing stress. According to Recio, Linares, Banegas and Díaz (2016), noise pollution in most incidences is overlooked as a contributor of environmental stress that can results in adverse health condition. Noise pollution has not been evaluated since 1981 and thus most people are unaware of the potential health consequences of excessive noise. In the United States nearly 100 million people are exposed to high levels of noise pollution that occurs mostly from aircraft and automobile traffic. Noise caused at night time can interfere with sleep thus posing serious health risks. Additionally, it poses severe heart diseases, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. According to Christensen, Raaschou-Nielsen, Tjønneland, Overvad, Nordsborg, Ketzel and Sørensen (2016), long term exposure of people to noise pollution resulting from traffic contributes to about 3% of coronary heart diseases.
Ways that a Persons Living Environment can Cause Physical or Psychological Healing
On the other hand, an individual’s living environment can result in physical or psychological healing. The physical qualities and psychological characteristics of an individual’s environment determine their health and general well being. Appropriate environments stimulate mental well being of the people in that surrounding. Suitable physical surroundings reduces stress in people living in such environments thus contribute to physical and psychological healing. An environment that promotes healing among individuals causes them to feel relaxed, positively stimulated and safe. People living in homes located in appropriate physical setting live healthy. Urban planning determines health of members of the public. A properly planned town will put into consideration various factors including community amenities, planting and landscape design, residential density and sanitary infrastructure (Halpern, 2014).
Studies reveal that people living close to different elements of nature such as trees and pools influences them into becoming more relaxed thus contributing to physical and psychological healing. It is therefore important for town planners to incorporate such elements when designing cities to promote people’s well being. People’s psychological needs should be taken into consideration during planning of towns to enhance maximum satisfaction and efficiency among people’s behaviors since the environment has significant impacts on the environment. People living in town environment where architectural styles used have incorporated people’s needs and preferences mould and shape their behavior positively. Studies indicate that an effective architectural design should maximize flexibility, freedom of behavior and mobility of people. An environment consisting of such elements will provide people with good feelings that contribute to their physical and psychological healing (Sarafino & Smith, 2014).
People living in clean environments have minimal exposure to conditions that could result in psychological or physical harm. Additionally areas with forests or trees produce pure air that provides good health to the people within the surrounding. Areas with low traffic minimize production of smoke thus less air pollution. Moreover, people living in areas where factories that use electricity instead of burning fossil fuels improves the environment thus contributes to physical or psychological healing among people in such environments. It is therefore important for people to keep their surrounding clean to prevent adverse health implications that results from unclean environmental. According to Hartig, Mitchell, De Vries andFrumkin (2014), a clean surrounding creates a healthy environment and a healthy environment is characterized by clean air, water and proper disposal of wastes.
People living in areas surrounded by trees or forests demonstrate excellent health. Studies by Keniger, Gaston, Irvine and Fuller (2013) reveal that interaction with nature promotes good health among people. Moreover, this study suggests that nature facilitates speed recovery in postoperative patients. Other studies have also revealed that interaction with nature lowers blood pressure reduces anxiety among individuals, and fewer sick visits among inmates. Studies also reveal that people living in “green buildings” have less exposure to physical or psychological harm. Green buildings are buildings that have high indoor air quality. Such buildings are constructed with environmental friendlily materials, has appropriate furnishings, have effective ventilation systems and are built with cleaning agents that reduces indoor emissions of gases. Green buildings are designed to promote comfort and health for people. Therefore, people living in such environment will have good physical and mental health. Studies by Standish, Hobbs and Miller (2013) also indicate that people living in areas with elaborate building systems have minimal health risks. Therefore, understanding of the implications of designs of buildings promotes improved health benefits among people in these areas.
People living in urban areas that are less congested or have adequate open spaces experience excellent physical and psychological healing. Open spaces includes parks and reserves, walkways, structures, playgrounds, waterways, neighborhood streets and greenery. Several studies have attempted to outline the association between urban spaces and the mental and physical health of people in these surroundings. These studies have identified that urban spaces promotes well being among individuals. Studies by Wolch, Byrne and Newell (2014), indicate that urban spaces provide people with increased opportunities of interacting with other people and the natural environment hence contributing to community health and well being. Additionally, open spaces allow individuals to express their social and cultural identity thus enhancing their psychological health. Urban open spaces create a healthy urban environment for people living in these surrounding and allows people to access green resources. Green spaces such as large shrubs and trees protects the natural features of the environment, maintains clean air and water, store carbon to minimize concentration in the atmosphere, and cools cities by reducing global warming. Additionally, trees can enable communities to be resilient to environment hazards that can impact on human health. Studies by Wolch, Byrne and Newell (2014), reveal that access to natural environment enables people to improve their sense of wellbeing. These spaces function to safeguard health and well being of members of the public. Therefore, urban open spaces facilitates creation of safe and healthy environments where can effectively socialize with others, conduct recreation activities and allows people to relax their minds thereby promoting psychological healing. The need to promote good health has provided urban planners with knowledge that green space policies are important part of urban planning and these policies promote sustainable development in urban areas (Shanahan, Fuller, Bush, Lin & Gaston, 2015).
Environmental Psychology shapes the behaviors of people both in their immediate behavior and long term behavior. The physical and psychological environment determines the behavior of people. Environmental psychology functions by focusing on identifying problems in the environment and offering solutions to those issues. The aim of environmental science is to provide people with effective ways of managing the environment, developing personality and promoting achievement of better life for people. Moreover, environmental psychology provide efficient ways of conserving the natural environment and promoting better ways of designing towns and cities by taking into consideration the responses and the behavioral needs of the people. The living environment of individuals determines their health and well being. A person’s environment can result in psychological or psychological harm or healing. For instance, artificial features and population density in urban areas can lead to development of mental health problems and increased crime rates that result in psychological harm and physical harm respectively. Urban conditions have huge influence on people’s behaviors and thus individuals living in overpopulated areas of towns are more likely to experience breakdown of their behavior patterns. On the other hand, appropriate environments promote mental well being of the people in that surrounding. It is evident that suitable physical surroundings reduces stress in people living in such environments thus contribute to physical and psychological healing. An environment that promotes healing among individuals causes them to feel relaxed, positively stimulated and safe. People living in homes located in appropriate physical setting live healthy. Therefore, a healthy living environment is important in promoting physical and psychological health.
Cassidy, T. (2013). Environmental psychology: Behaviour and experience in context. Psychology Press.
Christensen, J. S., Raaschou-Nielsen, O., Tjønneland, A., Overvad, K., Nordsborg, R. B., Ketzel, M., … & Sørensen, M. (2016). Road traffic and railway noise exposures and adiposity in adults: a cross-sectional analysis of the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives (Online), 124(3), 329.
Forns, J., Dadvand, P., Foraster, M., Alvarez-Pedrerol, M., Rivas, I., López-Vicente, M., … & Grellier, J. (2016). Traffic-related air pollution, noise at school, and behavioral problems in Barcelona schoolchildren: a cross-sectional study. Environmental health perspectives, 124(4), 529.
Gong, Y., Palmer, S., Gallacher, J., Marsden, T., & Fone, D. (2016). A systematic review of the relationship between objective measurements of the urban environment and psychological distress. Environment International, 96, 48-57.
Halpern, D. (2014). Mental health and the built environment: more than bricks and mortar?. Routledge.
Hartig, T., Mitchell, R., De Vries, S., & Frumkin, H. (2014). Nature and health. Annual Review of Public Health, 35, 207-228.
Keniger, L. E., Gaston, K. J., Irvine, K. N., & Fuller, R. A. (2013). What are the benefits of interacting with nature?. International journal of environmental research and public health, 10(3), 913-935.
Lovallo, W. R. (2015). Stress and health: Biological and psychological interactions. Sage publications.
Morelli, X., Rieux, C., Cyrys, J., Forsberg, B., & Slama, R. (2016). Air pollution, health and social deprivation: A fine-scale risk assessment. Environmental research, 147, 59-70.
Recio, A., Linares, C., Banegas, J. R., & Díaz, J. (2016). Road traffic noise effects on cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic health: An integrative model of biological mechanisms. Environmental research, 146, 359-370.
Sarafino, E. P., & Smith, T. W. (2014). Health psychology: Biopsychosocial interactions. John Wiley & Sons.
Shanahan, D. F., Fuller, R. A., Bush, R., Lin, B. B., & Gaston, K. J. (2015). The health benefits of urban nature: how much do we need?. BioScience, 65(5), 476-485.
Standish, R. J., Hobbs, R. J., & Miller, J. R. (2013). Improving city life: options for ecological restoration in urban landscapes and how these might influence interactions between people and nature. Landscape ecology, 28(6), 1213-1221.
Steg, L., van den Berg, A. E., & De Groot, J. I. (Eds.). (2012). Environmental psychology: An introduction. John Wiley & Sons.
Wolch, J. R., Byrne, J., & Newell, J. P. (2014). Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough’. Landscape and Urban Planning, 125, 234-244.
Zhuang, J., Cox, J., Cruz, S., Dearing, J. W., Hamm, J. A., & Upham, B. (2016). Environmental Stigma Resident Responses to Living in a Contaminated Area. American Behavioral Scientist, 0002764216657381.
Zivin, J. G., & Neidell, M. (2013). Environment, health, and human capital. Journal of Economic Literature, 51(3), 689-730.