Urban life and loneliness

It sometimes gets hard to fathom that anyone could be lonely or feel isolated in the city, surrounded by millions of people. But urban loneliness is real. And, it’s at the centre of a health epidemic.

Over the years family system has witnessed several changes, more so, evident after the industrial revolution. The patriarchal families, which had been common in our society, were being replaced more or less completely by nuclear family system. The transition from patriarchal and stem families to nuclear families was also the consequence of the fact that families had less capital to hand down from one generation to the next, due to the shift to wage labor and migration from rural to city dwellings. Sociologist such as Max Weber stressed that because of urbanization and industrialization, a transition from multigenerational to nuclear families took place in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century. The distances grew wider between families. The sheer scale of urban life contributes greatly to feelings of loneliness. Mostly people are busy with their lives. With long hours of work and distances to travel, generally keeps people away from home for long hours. This makes it difficult to know your neighbors well or socialize. A US based research centre suggests that while only 24 per cent of city dwellers reported knowing all or most of their neighbors, the corresponding number for those living in rural areas was over 40 per cent.

Loneliness is little-understood, despite being a serious public health problem, “Because measuring loneliness is not as simple as measuring blood pressure or blood sugar levels. Loneliness is a state of emotion and our subjective interpretation of our lives,” suggests Dr Debanjan Banerjee.

Several studies have established how loneliness can trigger chronic physical and mental disorders. From serious physical conditions like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease to psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, the health impact of loneliness is well-documented.

And, while there are new apps that help you express your feelings, connect to like-minded neighbors or practice gratitude, the real solution remains in our ability to use technology to encourage connections in real-life, urban spaces.

Few proactive ideas to increase physical connectivity:
Community Garden
Book Club
Kitchen Share

Image source-Unsplash

Author
Bharti Gitay
Psychologist At Mpower - The Centre
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