Coping with the Stress of Urban Living in the Urban Millenium: Ayo Binitie and Current Perspectives*
Urban areas within a country are defined as towns with the highest population density. By mid-2007, the world entered the urban millennium, because for the first time in history, over 50% of persons live in urban areas. The major source of urban stress is overcrowding and consequent environmental pollution ( noise, fumes, refuse) and traffic congestion, which are stressful. Problems associated with urban slum dwelling places include poverty, homelessness, crimes, violence, drug addiction, and sexual abuse. Cities usually fail in their primary duty of providing employment and accommodation for a sufficient number of the teeming migrants. There is increased risk for schizophrenia and depression among urban residents. Hence, urban living is associated with enhanced opportunities for encountering distressing experience. Yet, the city is always a hotbed for new ideas, for modernity, for social networking, and national economic development. The concept of stress concerns the effects of psychosocial and environmental factors on physical and mental well-being. Developments in the psycho-biology of stress include the following concepts: the stress (fight-or-flight) response, the role of glucocorticoids in the hypothalamo- pituitary-adrenal axis, the relaxation response, allostasis, the broaden-and-build theory; as well as the current idea of endophenotypes that seeks to clarify our understanding of how gene-environment interactions mediate coping mechanisms, such as resilience, optimism, positive affect and benefit finding. It appears that those who are resilient to stress, who react with a larger positive affect, and who are optimistic, are likely to have the met/met polymorphism of COMT and BDNF, as well as ll (long) alleles of the serotonin transporter. Those who are vulnerable to decompensate into depression or schizophrenia in the face of stress are more likely to have the val/val (for COMT and BDNF) and ss (for 5HTTLPR) polymorphisms. Ayo Binitie appreciated these ideas in his theories about stress (the “pulley paradigm” and “group focal theory”), in the classification that he proposed for stress- related disorders (disorders of social living), in his practice of group therapy and psychotherapy through environmental manipulation, and his faith in the physical fitness culture for which he was an exponent. The Uselu Therapeutic Neighborhood, which he established, bore the hall marks of his social conscience and practical innovativeness. As an urbanite, he taught us how to overcome the stresses of urban life and enjoy the city fully.
Nigerian Journal of Psychiatry Vol. 6 (1) 2008: pp. 4-9