Decades of research have documented the higher risk of mental disorders amongst people living in urban versus rural areas. Parallel to urbanisation, cities have not escaped the dramatic demographic shift resulting in a large number of older citizens living in European cities. Urbanisation and ageing combined, therefore, have enormous implications for public mental health, yet there is limited understanding of the pathways through which cities and urban environments influence mental wellbeing and cognitive function in older populations.
From 1990 to 2010, the burden of mental health increased by 38%, an increase mostly attributable to population growth and ageing. Mental disorders associated with ageing, therefore, have become a key priority for public health policy and prevention. Mental disorders in old age lead to impairments in the ability to function socially, decreased quality of life, and increased risk of health problems and comorbidities. They carry substantial social and economic impacts on families and societies, imposing a substantial burden on health and social care services.
While cities pose major challenges for older citizens, they also offer unique opportunities for the design of policies, clinical and public health interventions that promote mental health and ensure the delivery of health care services for the elderly.