What does living in the world’s second most populous city mean for your mind and body?

While the Capital’s graph on its health status and environmental well-being doesn’t read too well, healthcare providers say that physical health takes a hit due to being exposed to high pollution levels, unhealthy eating habits, shrinking green spaces, harsh weather and the stress of making a living.

Establishing a strong link between rising pollution levels in the Capital and the resulting health problems, Centre for Science and Environment (Research and Advocacy) executive director Anumita Roychowdhury said: “Despite the several measures being taken to control air pollution levels, Delhi has gone back to the pre-CNG days. We are seeing dangerously high levels of air and noise pollution, and sadly we are now dealing with multiple pollutants known to cause cardiac and respiratory problems and long-term exposure can lead to cancer and metabolic problems.”

“Current data [which is still under investigation] suggests that expecting mothers who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution or are living near roads [where there is constant exposure to vehicular pollution] have babies with reduced brain size,” Ms. Roychowdhury added.

Research study

It is, however, not the physical well-being alone that takes a hit.

A research study on urban mental health by the Indian Council of Medical Research has indicated that city life, with its work and social stress, has resulted in an increase in the number of people suffering from psychiatric illnesses and sub-syndromes like headache, tension and insomnia.

Fortis Hospital’s Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences director Samir Parikh said: “Urban living increases stress because of the kind of lifestyle, poor work-life balance and lack of support systems.”

Meanwhile, speaking about the changed diet of the urban population, Indian Dietetic Association president Rekha Sharma explained: “For over 99 per cent of the urban population, the city offers very limited space for exercise, which added with our vastly changed dietary habits is very dangerous for the physical well-being of the people.”

“Gone for urban dwellers is the opportunity and access to eat a variety of grains, including maize, millet, ragi, etc., and wholegrain foods. Instead, we are forced to use fine carbohydrates, extensively processed calorie dense foods and even the type of fats we eat now have changed. Today we consume higher percentage of saturated fats. This, over the years, has seen a rise in lifestyle-related diseases in a much younger population.”

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