OVER the last 30 or more years, mental health researchers have been interested in the ecological study of mental disorders. It has been argued by these researchers that studies of the distribution of various mental disorders within the urban area would give some insight into the social factors associat ed with mental illness. Some of these researchers have promulgated a cause and effect relationship from their findings. Others have been more cautious and argued that strong ecological relationships do not necessarily show causality but rather help to identify social problem areas which aid the social planner in his endeavors.
Much of the interest in the use of the ecology methodology for preliminary investigations into the incidence and prevalence of mental disorders in a specified geographic area stems from a study of mental disorders in Chicago in the 1920's and early 1930's.1 Faris and
Rowitz L, Levy L. Ecological Analysis of Treated Mental Disorders in Chicago. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1968;19(5):571-579. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1968.01740110059007