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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

HIGH-RISE FLATS CAN AFFECT MENTAL HEALTH ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN




Research on how human beings relate with the built environment shows a link between dwelling in high-rise flats with such behavioral problems in children like bedwetting, temper tantrums, hyperactivity, and hostility. In interdisciplinary exploration of literature on social sciences, psychology and  architecture researchers disclose findings worthy any loving parent’s attention.

High-rise dwelling has exposure to stressors that leads to stress and anxiety which in turn can cause or precipitate behavioral challenges in children. According to experts divorce, family relocation, or being picked on or punished at school are other stressors that can affect children.




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Stress itself does not start things like bedwetting in children but precipitate it such that its prolonged and increased. Nocturnal enuresis or bedwetting  has other causes like a child’s bladder may be too small for the amount of urine they’re producing. However, for things like temper tantrums, hyperactivity etc stress and anxiety have been singled out as direct causes by doctors.

A life in high-rise apartments has exposure to various stressors and a research by the University of Sydney summarized these in six fears of which I present three as follows;

Suicide Phobia. This is a fear that the residents themselves, a loved one, or a neighbor will fall or jump from a high window.

Xenophobia. The sheer number of people who reside in One Big Residence means that, in a sense, strangers share your dwelling, at least the semi public areas of it. This fear of strangers leads to the fear of crime, a felt lack of social support and the absence of community in the midst of many.

Illness Phobia. The sheer number of people in one building may increase the fear of becoming ill from communicable diseases generated by others like the recent epidemic called Ebola.

Keeping this in mind it is therefore, not without reason that research by the same authority found out that “ Children who resided in high-rise (versus non-high-rise buildings) were reported to manifest twice as many behavior problems, such as  bedwetting and temper tantrums ( Ineichen & Hooper 1974).” The document goes on to say, “ In another (research), boys (but not girls) who lived in 14-versus 3 –storey buildings were rated by their teachers as having more behavioral problems, such as hyperactivity, and hostility (Saegert,1982).”

The Solution: Incorporate Natural Settings In House Designs
Experts especially in environmental psychology and pathology are one on the fact that children have an affinity for nature and that nature buffers the impact of stress for both children and adults. In fact according to Dr. Ellen Fisher, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the New York School of Interior Design, nature is instrumental in improving the process of healing for the sick.

 When designing a house Dr Fisher makes the following recommendations that are worthwhile.
  • Establishing a connection with nature. “A view to the outdoors and of nature is very important to healing,” Dr. Fisher said. “However, if one does not have a garden, or even a view of nature, then bringing plants, artwork or photographs depicting nature, and natural materials into the home would be effective.”
  • Incorporate both art and music.
  • Increase the amount of daylight as much as possible by removing heavy drapes. Then you can control the natural light with blinds or shades.
  • Reduce noise, which is a major source of stress. For people living in a busy city, installing soundproof windows could be an option, as is installing cushioned carpet.
  • Think about creating a space for meditation or quietness using a soft color palette and materials.

Acknowledgements

Robert Gifford, The Consequences of Living in High-Rise Buildings, University of Sydney


Dr Nancy Wells, How Natural and Built Environments Impact Human Health, Cornell                                                         University

Amber Bauer, The Architecture of Recovery: Can Design Affect Your Health?, cancer.net

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