Depression, Social interactions and Urbanisation
in Europe

Geo878 Geovisualisation, The University of Zurich


In the past decades, urbanisation rate has increased dramatically, and it is predicted that by 2050 almost 70% of the population will be living in urban areas (United Nations, 2018). The impact of urbanisation on health goes both ways, the benefits of access to healthcare services, sanitation and food security contributes to better health. On the other hand, pollution, crime, stress and deprivation of social interaction contributes to the emergence of illnesses (Knipscheer et al., 2000). Other studies show a strong negative connection between social interaction and depression symptoms (Nezlek, 1994. George, 1989).

This project aims to examine the relation between social interactions and symptoms of depression in different urbanisation levels in Europe (cities, towns and suburbs and rural areas). The application allows the user to select different characteristics of the data and illustrate them in a map, providing the user with an overview of the data and allows insights of the topic. The application presents analyses of the two datasets and of the ratio between them in relation to the urbanisation level.


The data for this project consists of two separate datasets: Depression rate and Social interaction frequency

Depression dataset originally consisted of:

Social interaction dataset originally consisted of:

For this project only the highest validity rate of data were used. As the different types of interaction (family/friends) had almost identical in behaviour, we chose to use only "family and relatives", as an indicator for the social interaction. We removed the family type, as some of the categories were concurrent and did not add up to a 100%. Lastly, we kept only the total depression rate.

After the data cleaning, the final dataset consists of:

  • Social interaction: Frequency of social interaction(without total), country , urbanisation, quintile
  • Depression: Depression rate, country, urbanisation, age, sex
  • All values in this project are percentages of the total population

    Depression and social interaction datasets were taken from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Eurostat provides high quality data and allows comparison between countries because of the equal parameter definitions. The country boundaries polygons were taken from:


    The map shows general differences between the countries. Visual analysis reveals that social interactions more frequent in the south west of Europe. The northern countries have higher depression/social interaction ratio, which means that the depression is comparatively higher than the social interaction frequencies.

    The depression/social interaction ratio in the balkan countries is higher in the rural areas, in central Europe it is higher in cities and baltic countries show no difference between rural and urban areas.

    The data exploration shows that depression is in general slightly higher for females and that depression increases towards older age.

    The visualisations do not support the argument that there would be a relation between the urbanisation and the effect on the relationship between depression and social interactions.


    Dye, C. (2008). Health and Urban Living. Science, 319(5864), pp.766-769.
    George, L. K., Blazer, D. G., Hughes, D. C., & Fowler, N. (1989). Social support and the outcome of major depression. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 154(4), 478-485.
    Gruebner, O., Rapp, M., Adli, M., Kluge, U., Galea, S. and Heinz, A. (2017). Cities and Mental Health. Deutsches Aerzteblatt Online.
    Knipscheer, C. P. M., Van Groenou, M. B., Leene, G. J. F., Beekman, A. T. F., & Deeg, D. J. H. (2000). The effects of environmental context and personal resources on depressive symptomatology in older age: a test of the Lawton model. Ageing & Society, 20(2), 183-202.
    Nezlek, J. B., Imbrie, M., & Shean, G. D. (1994). Depression and everyday social interaction. Journal of personality and social psychology, 67(6), 1101.
    United Nations, 2018. [12.05.2019]
    Vlahov, D., Freudenberg, N., Proietti, F., Ompad, D., Quinn, A., Nandi, V. and Galea, S. (2007). Urban as a Determinant of Health. Journal of Urban Health, 84(S1), pp.16-26.


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