Is urbanization good for a nation’s health?

Clara K. Cohen, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
David E. Horlacher, Middlebury College
F. Landis MacKellar, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Though urbanization once carried a severe health penalty for migrants, we present evidence showing that urbanization today may carry significant health advantages, especially in developing countries. Mortality data suggest an encouraging picture for improved health in urban areas as compared to rural areas, and, therefore, a greater likelihood of improved national health as urbanization continues. For specific health conditions, however, the picture is decidedly mixed. Some health conditions are likely to improve with greater urbanization, and others will worsen. Urbanization would likely result in a higher prevalence of some chronic diseases, HIV/AIDS, schizophrenia, asthma, violence, and osteoporosis. Urbanization would likely reduce the prevalence of malaria, maternal conditions, suicides, and motor vehicle injuries.

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Presented in Session 93: Environmental effects on health and mortality

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