Effectof Population Density and Noise on Individuals
Since1950, the global population has almost tripled. Such phenomenalgrowth in population in a limited space has affected the environmentnegatively. Today, high density population centers in form of urbancenters and slums are mushrooming everywhere. This has led to anincrease in noise levels, loss and threats to personal space andprivacy in new ways. There is need to acknowledge that such changescan cause psychological effects of crowding, frustration, anxiety andeven aggression. All these effects need to be managed well to ensurepsychological well being of the population.
Althoughhuman beings are social animals, they exhibit territoriality. This isdefined as the desire particularly by animals to protect and defend aparticular geographic region from intrusion or occupation by anothermember of a similar species (Cassidy 2013). Some animals such atigers are known to aggressively protect their territories evenagainst animals of a different species such as humans. However, humanterritoriality is expressed in more complex ways given that it is notrestricted to geographic dimension alone but also includes otherdimensions. When this territory is infringed especially by increasedpopulation density, human behavior is likely to change and may alsoresult to other undesirable psychological conditions.
Humanbeings protect and defend their territory in different ways. One ofthem is using territorial markers. These territorial markers are alsoobserved in animals which use a variety of ways. A very commonterritorial marking activity is seen in dogs that mark land featureswith the scented urine to warn other dogs of their presence. The sameis observed in lions and cheetahs which use a combination of urineand body achieved by running their bodies against trees of physicalfeatures to warn others against venturing in such territories. Forhuman beings, family names mark territories, wedding rings also markterritory, fences around home or even naming places for certaintribes. It thus emerges that there are three main kinds of territorymaking namely tribal, family and personal (Cassidy 2013). Tribesmark their territories by naming rivers, hills or even their peoplein unique ways.
Personalspace is defined as the dynamic distance and orientation component ofinterpersonal relations (Gifford, 2007). As a social construct, theacceptable personal space deemed fit varies from one society to theother and with situations. For instance, a study among North Americanuniversity students identified personal space as a diameter ofapproximately 60 cm all round. In most cases, societies that exhibithigher levels of individuality recorded bigger personal space whilesocieties which are more community oriented require smaller personalspace (Gifford et al., 2011). Infringing on personal space is likelyto impact on one’s sense of comfort anxiety and safety concerns. Inthe recent past, the media has been awash with stories regarding theuse of anti-seat recline device being sold to regular air travelers.The device allows users to prevent the seat in front of them fromreclining in a manner that invades their personal space. The use ofthe device has led to huge debates after one entire flight calledfor an emergency landing after passengers fought over its usebecause the passenger in front felt he was being denied his personalspace while the passenger behind, using the anti-seat recliningdevice was protecting his personal space. Such scenarios have beencaused by airline companies attempting to squeeze people in thesmallest of spaces for higher profits.
Theinvention of the internet the worldwide web and social media havebrought to the fore the issue of privacy in personal lives. From themany court cases and suits being filed over violation of privacy, itis clear that this is a sensitive issue for people and one which thelaw treats as so. But what is privacy? From a legal point of view,privacy is the “right to be let alone” while from a psychologicalpoint of view it is the “claim of individuals, groups orinstitutions to determine for themselves when, how and to what extentinformation about them is communicated to others” (Barak, 2008p.13-14). Another definition views privacy as “the selective controlsof access to the self.” (Barak, p. 14). This latter definitionbetter suits the current context of environment in key.
Witha growing population and higher population density, it becomesincreasingly difficult for individuals to maintain the right to belet alone or control the people or the level of access that peopleand other institutions have towards a person. Already, there isongoing debate on revelations that the US government has beenmonitoring and eavesdropping on some people’s calls, emails andtests messages in the fight against terrorism. It must be noted thatthese alleged measures are possible as it is increasingly difficultto monitor the huge population closely using conventional means.Furthermore, the densely populated areas have recorded higher crimerates thus calling for closer scrutiny and access to the self totrack and prevent crime. Additionally, increased use of technologywith nearly every detail of one’s life being stored digitally, theinformation can be easily accessed by unauthorized persons.Furthermore, some organizations are demanding very privateinformation to receive their services e.g. registering in a websiteto have access to it.
Crowdingand noise are two of the major environmental stressors that lead topsychological distress. Another major environment stressor notaddress in this paper is temperature. Studies have shown that urbancenters record higher than average crowding and noise levels. Theresult is that the urban population is exposed to an unsuitableenvironment. Over time, this cumulative stressful environment leadsfrustration, anger, aggression, feelings of powerlessness andinability to relax (Archer 2012). Studies have shown that personsliving overcrowded neighborhoods such as slums and refugee camps areprone to broken social relations due to decreased privacy, lack ofprivacy caused depression, psychological frustrations and diminishedhopes for the future (Gifford, 2007). Cassidy (2013) also writes thatnoise levels have shown positive correlation to admission inpsychiatrichospitals.
Zoosand parks play a significant role in environmental psychologydiscussions as they provide a break from the noise and overcrowdingof the outside world. The amount of space being designed for zoos andparks in modern day urban planning is growing. This is not just bycoincidence, but by strategy informed by empirical observation andyears if research. Contact with nature- plants animals, pleasantlandscapes and wilderness- has far reaching medical benefits.Therefore government local authorities and private organizations haveoften pushed for creation of zoos and recreational parks as areas forjust relaxing but also for providing needed psychological healing anda departure from the regular life. In particular, parks help inpromoting fitness and fighting obesity. A particular study nCleveland involving older adults reveals that active park users wereless likely to be obese and visited doctors less frequently thanthose who did not use the park (Cassidy 2013).
Governmentsrespond to overcrowding and growing noise levels especially in urbancenters through legal frameworks. Local governments in most countriesare mandated with regulating urban growth and development. Thispertains to strict supervision and approval of building plans forresidential and commercial buildings. For hospitals, there are strictrules on the acceptable spacing of beds for inpatients. To protectresidents from excessive noise levels, the laws on public nuisanceand disturbance forbids people from engaging in activities,especially in residential areas, that cause noise pollution or noisethat is deemed uncomfortable by acceptable societal levels. However,control of population remains to be a problem as only China hasenacted a policy that actively regulates the number of children acouple can have (Gifford 2007 2013). This means that overcrowdingwill continue to grow as the global population is estimated to groweven further having almost tripled since the end of the 2ndWorld War.
Itis clear that pollution noise and overcrowding are major sources ofpsychological problems. Overcrowding as a environmental stressorinterferes with human territoriality. This means has forced some toutilize more time and resources in marking their territories. Whereterritories are infringed, it results in psychological problems.Understandably, overcrowding to increased cases of infringed personalspace and privacy thereby straining social relations, sense of humandignity and causing undesirable behaviors such as aggression aimed atrestoring parity. Although the western world has no active laws toregulate population density and overcrowding, it appears that onlythe natural forces on availability of space and resources will guidepeople in terms of where they chose to live or be at any given time.
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