Beyond Zoonosis: The Mental Health Impacts of Rat Exposure on Impoverished Urban Neighborhoods


Rats are a common problem in cities worldwide. Impoverished urban neighborhoods are disproportionately affected because factors associated with poverty promote rat infestations and rat–human contact. In public health, most studies have focused on disease transmission, but little is known about the nonphysical consequences of this environmental exposure. Mental health often is neglected but is receiving increasing attention in public health research and practice. The objective of this study was to use a systematic review and narrative synthesis of the published literature to explore the effect of rat exposure on mental health among residents in impoverished urban neighborhoods. Although the literature addressing this topic was sparse, the results of this review suggest that rat exposure consistently has a negative impact on mental health. These effects can be elicited directly (e.g., fear of rat bites) or indirectly (e.g., feeling of disempowerment from inability to tackle rat problems). By developing a better understanding of potential rat-related health risks, both mental and physical, public health officials can better evaluate, refine, and develop their policies regarding rats.


Speaker / Author: 
Raymond Lam, MSc, CPHI(C), School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
Kaylee A. Byers, MSc, University of British Columbia
Chelsea G. Himsworth, MVetSc, DVM, Dipl ACVP, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
Month Year: 
November 2018
Page #: 
Publication Month: 
November 2018