While rats are far from anyone’s favorite critters, you might actually not even suspect the dangers they pose from a psychological point of view. The vermin can particularly wreak havoc on the emotional state of people living in poor neighborhoods, causing them to be skeptical about their own hopes for a better future.
But it’s not like that’s unexpected or anything. Rats have long been imagery associated with misery, lack of sanitation, and hopelessness, ever since they brought about the Black Death and wiped out tens or hundreds of millions. They are part of our collective subconscious, with a cemented role as bringers of desolation.
It turns out that a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins University actually wanted to test how true this was, so they performed a meta-analysis on the data of 448 Baltimore residents living in poor neighborhoods. As expected, the study revealed that rats are heralds of depression in urban environments.
The team of researchers looked at data collected between 2010 and 2011 as part of a different study, one attempting to find out whether addressing signs of depression can reduce dangerous behaviors like risky sex and drug abuse. The researchers focused on the depression levels of the participants is the previous study, as well as on several questions revolving around seeing rats.
Of the 448 participants, about half reported seeing rats on their block on a weekly basis, while 35 percent saw them daily. As many as thirteen percent actually saw rats inside their homes occasionally, while about five percent saw them in their houses on a daily basis.
According to Danielle German, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health,
Those who live in areas where the perceived rat problem is the greatest are more pessimistic about their own ability to control rats, have less confidence in their neighbors’ commitment to rat eradication and have relatively little faith that the city would act if called upon to address the rat problem.
Unfortunately for the people living in these poor conditions, rats are particularly prone to popping up in underprivileged urban areas, where they have access to food and shelter. Poor sanitation services and vacant housing are all signs that rats are nearby, and they are mostly prevalent in the aforementioned underprivileged areas.
So adding to the stream of misfortunes in their lives, the people living in such environments were found to experience 72% more intense symptoms of depression than people where rats weren’t such a big issue. They critters were found to be as depressing as witnessing drug sales or experiencing threats of violence.
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