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What are the Effects of Population Density?

Updated on January 11, 2017
Walk for life 2007
Walk for life 2007 | Source

The Effects of Population Density

Population density causes environmental issues for the people who live in and visit those areas. The psychological impact of living in a densely populated area is still a point of research for environmental psychologists. Over the last thirty years environmental psychologists and scientists have determined some of the affects of noise pollution and constant close contact between people. Determining factors of population density that effect behavior is important when trying to understand people.

Effects of Noise

The definition of noise is unwelcome sound (Veitch & Arkkelin, 1995). Noise is a non toxic pollutant, people do not ingest it, and in fact unless the noise overpowers all other noises or has an overpowering timber, pitch, or is suddenly loud, people may not even notice noise in their conscious mind. However, loud noise has a direct affect on people’s behavior. In 1971, several studies were conducted to determine the effects of construction and traffic noise on willingness of people to help others (Page, 1977). The study determined that people who were exposed to loud noise were less likely to help others or engage in cooperative behavior (Page, 1977). In area where the population is dense noise can be overpowering. The constant noise of sirens, vehicles, and other activity has a direct effect on the people in those populated areas.

Scheuring and Domokos, 2007, studied the possibility that noise has a connection to chaos. The findings of the study were that noise creates an environment of chaos for humans, overpowering their senses, muddling their thoughts (Scheuring & Domokos, 2007). Noise can affect the nervous system, gastrointestinal problems, and can causes anxiety (Veitch & Arkkelin, 1995). According to Veitch and Arkkelin, 1995, the tensing of muscles and anxiety as a response to noise is involuntary. With the physical reaction to noise it is not difficult to understand why chaos is a side effect of noise pollution.

Reducing Noise

Noise reduction strategies are used every day to protect hearing and defuse noise. Common forms of noise reduction include; ear plugs, double doors, noise reduction building materials, altering sound waves, and sound barriers near high vehicle traffic areas (Veitch & Arkkelin, 1995). Noise reduction strategies are used to do two things; reduce noise levels and reduce the exposure time (Veitch & Arkkelin, 1995). In densely populated areas such as big cities like New York soundproof glass is used in constructing buildings. The use of sound proof glass eliminates street noise from offices and homes creating a more pleasing atmosphere for people to live.


All people are inherently territorial. The drive to claim individual space has fueled wars and created empires. In areas where the population is dense territorial behavior takes on several dimensions primary territory, secondary territory, and public territories (Veitch & Arkkelin, 1995). In cities people have smaller spaces to consider as their primary territory. People may form groups in order to establish territory in what was considered public territory. Gangs form in areas of large cities establishing certain areas as territory by spray painting things with gang symbols or gang names, in essence marking their territory. In personal spaces such as offices or bedrooms people mark them as their own though decorating or design.


Privacy is the choice of an individual to or not to interact with other people. Every person has probably heard a mother state that she does not have any privacy because her children are always there. Culture and money are usually the determining factors in how much space a person has in their home. Impoverished conditions usually result in a small amount of privacy due to the families economic constraints. In some areas whole families may live in a one room house. In these small spaces people do not have privacy. Under these conditions people are inundated by personal contact with other people.

Personal Space

Personal Space is the physical space around a person that determines how comfortable the person is with other people coming in contact with them (Veitch & Arkkelin, 1995). Certain situations invade personal space, such as concerts or crowded streets in which people are very close to each other in a physical way. The invasion of personal space makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Culture differences play an important roll in personal space. In some cultures personal space is constantly violated by people who hug and kiss. Most people observe a distance between themselves and other people subconsciously (Veitch & Arkkelin, 1995).

Densely Populated Areas

In densely populated areas personal space is violated out of necessity due to over crowding. Densely populated areas require people to interact out of necessity rather than personal choice (Veitch & Arkkelin, 1995). Options for avoiding contact are limited in densely populated spaces. When personal space is constantly violated it can cause anxiety for people. Personal space is a psychological barrier in which people feel safe interacting with each other. When that space is not observed people lose their feeling of safety and comfort.

Privacy is more difficult to attain in a densely populated area. There are certain events that people do not feel comfortable doing with other people present, this would include anything that happens in the bathroom, romantic interactions, and even random quiet activities such as reading. When a person feels like they do not have privacy they may experience anxiety or stressors. There are so many environmental issues in cities that it may be difficult to pinpoint specific causes of anxiety.

Territory in large cities is limited. Most people in densely populated areas do not have land that they can protect. People do have apartments and common areas such as halls that may be implied territory. For this reason many buildings require a key to the building as well as a key to the apartment. Most people in densely populated areas only have their homes to defend. This lack of space between people and areas may actually make people more defensive of the small space they have.

Obviously every person needs their space that is free of noise, interruption, and contact with others. Living is full of options for contact with other people, when those options are taken away by population density, people will feel the anxiety build. Every person has to have a measure of privacy and personal space. Environmental psychology may determine in the future what designs will help to alleviate the stressors of population density.


Page, Richard A. (1977). Noise and Helping Behavior. Retrieved on June 13, 2010 from

Scheuring, István. Domokos, Gábor. (2007). Only Noise Can Induce Chaos in Discrete

Populations. Vol. 116 Issue 3, p361-366, 6p, 3 graphs Graph; found on p364

Veitch, R., & Arkkelin, D. (1995). Environmental Psychology: An Interdisciplinary

Perspective. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc. A Pearson Education Company


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      13 months ago

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