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Screwy in the city? Urban living is crazy-making

Does life in the city sometimes seem a little, well, nuts?

Come to find out, research shows that urban areas do tend to have a higher incidence of schizophrenia and psychotic disorders than rural areas.

But why? Is it the stress? The poverty? The drug use? The crime? Is it that guy on the #2 bus who constantly clips his toenails?

Turns out it might just be a lack of potlucks and social mixers.

A new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry looked at more than 200,000 people living across Sweden and determined that the culprit is actually increased social fragmentation, i.e., a lack of social networks, social bonds, community spirit, etc.

“Social fragmentation was the most important area characteristic that explained the increased risk of psychosis in individuals brought up in cities,” wrote Dr. Stanley Zammit, lead author of the study.

Does that mean that living in cities -- especially cities where people never mix or mingle or make eye contact -- makes us crazy?

“Our findings suggest that living in certain parts of cities is associated with an increased risk compared to other areas in cities or rural areas but it’s only a small increase,” says the clinical senior lecturer in psychiatric epidemiology at Cardiff University in Wales. “The lifetime risk of schizophrenia is about 1 percent, so lifetime risk of living in a city might go up to about 1.5 percent -- not a big difference.”

Not a big difference, but coupled with city noise, high costs, increased stress and the occasional break-in, it was enough for Heather Corinna to move to a small Pacific Northwest island after living in Chicago, Minneapolis and Seattle.

“When I was living in a basement apartment in a crummy neighborhood in Chicago, I kept waking up to find my back door open,” says the 40-year-old sexuality educator. “I thought I was just forgetting to lock it until I woke up in the middle of the night and found the janitor of our building sitting in a chair at the end of the bed watching me sleep. He was probably one of the people in that study.” What about your city drives you nuts? Tell us in the comments area.Find The Body Odd on Twitter and on Facebook.