THE IMPACT OF RAPID URBANIZATION ON HEALTH – Insights from Hair Mineral Analysis in India


As an Indian resident, I’ve experienced firsthand the rapid urbanization occurring across the country. Our cityscapes have been reshaped by skyscrapers, our roads bristle with traffic, and our lifestyle has undergone a complete overhaul in the last few decades. While this progress has brought many benefits, it has also been linked to some adverse health impacts. One way we can gauge these impacts is through the use of hair mineral analysis.


Since the liberalization of the economy in the 1990s, India has seen unprecedented urban growth. According to the United Nations, India’s urban population is projected to reach 600 million by 2031, nearly twice as much as in 2001. This has led to significant lifestyle changes, influencing dietary habits, physical activity, and stress levels.


Urbanization’s impact on health is complex. On the one hand, urban dwellers often have better access to healthcare services, and there’s typically a lower risk of infectious diseases compared to rural areas. On the other hand, the urban environment can encourage sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, and higher stress levels – all risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.


Hair mineral analysis provides an opportunity to understand the physiological impacts of these lifestyle changes. This technique involves the analysis of a small sample of hair to measure its content of specific minerals and toxic metals.

Research in other parts of the world has shown links between hair mineral content and various health conditions. For example, high levels of toxic metals in hair have been associated with cognitive decline, while deficiencies of essential minerals may be indicative of malnutrition.


In India, the use of hair mineral analysis is relatively nascent, but its potential is immense. A study published in 2017 by Prasad et al., investigated the levels of toxic heavy metals in hair samples of urban and rural population in Rajasthan4. The study revealed a significantly higher burden of heavy metals in the urban population, particularly lead and mercury. These toxins are linked to a variety of health problems, including neurological disorders and cardiovascular disease.


In light of the rapid urbanization, it is crucial to better understand and address its potential health impacts. Hair mineral analysis could be an effective tool in this quest, offering insights into the physiological effects of changing lifestyles and environments.

Monitoring the health of urban populations through non-invasive methods such as hair analysis, along with public health interventions targeted at promoting healthy lifestyles, could play a significant role in the nation’s health in the coming decades.

In conclusion, as our country continues to urbanize at a breathtaking pace, we must ensure that our health doesn’t become the price of progress. Embracing innovative approaches like hair mineral analysis can help us understand and navigate the challenges ahead.

Lifeline Diag

1.United Nations. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2019.
2.Patel, V., et al. “Chronic diseases and injuries in India.” Lancet 377.9763 (2011): 413-428.
3.Kwong, W. T., et al. “Evaluation of trace elements in scalp hair of a young urban population in Hong Kong.” Environmental toxicology and pharmacology 34.1 (2012): 46-53.
4.Prasad, B., et al. “A comparative study of trace.