SKZ Foundation

Living in slums, which are overcrowded, unsanitary, and often dangerous urban areas, can have a wide range of negative psychological effects on individuals and communities. Conditions within slums can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and despair. These can result in depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, leading to engagement in negative coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, criminal activities, and even suicide. Imagine living without a home, having no stability in life and not being sure when you will be left with no place to live, the psychological effects the daily stress causes are beyond words. The people in slums have the miserable lives with their children having no better future than theirs, struggling every day to feed their children and having no opportunities to grow. Many surveys have been conducted there revealing that the mental health issues the slums people face are alarming. This article explores the psychological effects of living in slums, their causes, and potential solutions to address these issues.


The condition of living in slums can cause depression in many people. Individuals living in slums experience severe poverty, lack of access to basic needs such as clean water, and access to medical care, and in many cases have to endure crime and violence regularly. The inability to meet basic needs due to poverty and neglect can lead to helplessness, hopelessness, and feelings of worthlessness that eventually develop into depression.
One of the most common reasons for depression is the lack of stable employment opportunities among urban slum communities. Unemployment makes it difficult for people to meet their basic needs, leading them to focus on the feeling of inadequacy that has been ingrained in them. The absence of a social and family support system is another thing that exacerbates depressive symptoms when one undergoes such things as violence, abuse, or trauma. The lack of counselling and proper help makes the depression prolonged and severe that they even attempt suicides.


Living in slums is also associated with high levels of anxiety. The insecurity within slums as well as the lack of adequate access to basic needs create tensions among many people. The stress of worrying about how to meet their daily needs, and the threat of violence and disease adds to the anxiety. These factors, combined with insufficient access to healthcare services and limited resources to address health concerns, can cause panic and anxiety that gradually develops into mental illness.
Notably, slum-resident adult woman is at significant risk of severe mental health conditions when compared to men. Women in urban slums are particularly vulnerable to anxiety, which can affect physical health as well when not treated. Anxiety disorders disrupt the quality of life, causing sleep problems, digestive issues, headaches, blood pressure, mood swings, and substance abuse to cope with these symptoms.

Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Another common psychological impact of living in slums is experiencing and witnessing traumatic events. Slum environments can be incredibly dangerous, and residents are more likely to witness or experience crime, violence, and abuse. These experiences can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that causes anxiety, intense memories, and flashbacks to the traumatic event. The women in slums has a long history of being abused at home or at the places they go to find work. Mostly they work as house help and they are being treated unfairly there. This leave marks on their mental health.
People in slums who are most at risk of developing PTSD are children who experience violence or abuse, women who have undergone gender-based violence, and men who experience violence frequently. Additionally, violent conflicts and rapid urbanization create large-scale displacement, leaving people traumatized and with severe psychological issues when they move into the slums.

Low Self-Esteem and Isolation

Living in slums causes low self-esteem and feelings of isolation, mainly in children who are experiencing extreme poverty and are often not attending school. The living conditions in slum areas may lead children to believe that they could never achieve anything beyond their current circumstances, leading to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Additionally, living in very cramped and unsanitary environments results in the loss of self-identity in children as they struggle to live their lives in these harsh surroundings.
Isolation also results from poor social and family support networks. Social networks that exist around urban slums are often fragile, so residents cannot rely on vast support networks or develop lifelong friendships, thus making it difficult for them to establish a sense of belonging or a positive sense of identity.

Substance Use

Substance abuse is common among slum dwellers as a way of coping with daily struggles. The harsh living conditions experienced in slums often lead to intense anxiety, isolation, and depression, and many people turn to alcohol or drugs as a form of escapism. They don’t have any oppurtunities to grow and show their talent or to polish it, this causes them to get trapped in substance abuse and it is increasing to an alarming level. Drugs serve as convenient distractions and coping mechanisms until they turn into substance addiction, which further exacerbates their issues.

Behavioural Disorders

Children living in slums are vulnerable to developing behavioural disorders due to a lack of structured activities, poor-quality education, and poor parenting because of parental emotional distress caused by living in slums. The absence of a nurturing social environment means that interactions between children and well-adjusted adults are too few and too brief to foster the necessary socio-emotional requisites of childhood socio-emotional development. Children who are unable to access basic needs, such as clean water, appropriate nutrition, and shelter, living in unrecognized areas or congested and unsanitary communities, are more prone to behavioural issues.

In conclusion, living in slums can have an immense impact on an individual’s mental health. The physical conditions within slums can lead to a wide array of psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, low self-esteem, isolation, substance use, and behavioural disorders. These negative psychological impacts can affect people of all ages, though children are more vulnerable because they do not have the autonomy or resources to cope with the environment that they are growing up in. However, there are approaches available to address these issues. The solutions must be holistic, and seek to improve living conditions, social support networks, healthcare access, and trauma treatment for affected residents. Through concerted efforts, it is possible to alleviate the psychological issues associated with living in slums and create a better life for the millions of individuals living in such areas