Now that it’s been established that certain micro-apartment developments may seriously mess up street parking in already densely populated neighborhoods, medical experts have been pondering a far more worrisome aftereffect of living in a tres chic urban shoebox: a decline in mental health.

In a recent piece for The Atlantic, Jacoba Urist explores the potential psychological hazards of living in aggressively petite apartments which, for better or worse (mostly the former), have become all the rage in affordable housing-starved cities ranging from San Francisco to Chicago to New York. And the takeaway is this: micro-apartments, including those that offer dorm-style living arrangements with a range of communal ammenities, can be extremely beneficial for and begin to some — namely extroverted, never-at-home professionals in their 20s who are transitioning out of institutional shared living arrangements (i.e. actual college dormitories). In other words, they make for awesome starter apartments for young social butterflies/workaholics that own bikes.

On the flipside, living in an apartment that measures 300-square-feet or less can be troublesome for folks in their 30s and 40s as well as couples raising small children.

Home is supposed to be a safe haven, and a resident with a demanding job may feel trapped in a claustrophobic apartment at night — forced to choose between the physical crowding of furniture and belongings in his unit, and social crowding, caused by other residents, in the building’s common spaces. 
Issues of claustrophobia, social-crowding, and stunted childhood development are touched upon by various experts in Urist’s piece including Dak Kopec, director of Design for Human Health at Boston Architectural College. He believes that for some, residing in exceedinly cramped quarters can lead to increased instances of domestic abuse, depression, and alcoholism.

Perhaps most the most interesting bit comes from University of Texas psychology professor Samuel Gosling who discusses how micro-apartments can interfere with “identity claims” — that is, the boost of happiness we get when we're able to express ourselves — our values, our interests, our world-class tsotchke collections — by inviting friends and loved ones into our homes. Explains Gosling: “When we think about micro-living, we have a tendency to focus on functional things, like is there enough room for the fridge. But an apartment has to fill other psychological needs as well, such as self-expression and relaxation, that might not be as easily met in a highly cramped space.”

That isn’t to say that having a group of friends over for an adult slumber party, a casual dinner, or a beer-and-college-football session isn’t completely impossible when you're working with under 300 square feet. Some transformative and remarkably versatile tiny digs such as Graham Hill’s LifeEdited apartment in Manhattan, were designed, to some expense, with frequent en-suite entertaining in mind. It can be done. But when you’re living in a furnished rental apartment with a Murphy bed, a mini-fridge, and not enough square footage to fully inject your personality, things can get tricky when it comes to unwinding and entertaining.

While it's easy to throw your support behind the myraid joys of a downsized/right-sized/pared-down lifestyle — and we here at MNN do it a lot — just keep in mind that small doesn't always necessarily equal happy. 

Via [The Atlantic]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Can micro-apartments be bad for your health?
As micro-apartments transition from curiosity to a legitimate real estate trend, experts warn that living in such cramped quarters truly isn't for everyone.