Is rapid urban growth a great opportunity for humanity or are the conveniences of city life a great complication, interfering with true human connection? Why do city dwellers report more social isolation? Why do city dwellers report the same emotional state that prisoners feel – that they have been intentionally isolated as some form of punishment?
There’s a spiritual price to pay when everything is conveniently laid out. As Psychology Today points out, at any given moment, 20 percent of all city dwellers feel socially isolated and are unhappy as a result. Reports of more serious loneliness have doubled since the 1980s; now 40 percent of city dwellers report feelings of loneliness. Multiple studies have documented higher incidence of schizophrenia in the city. Schizophrenia is 2.37 times more prevalent in the most urban environment, when compared to the most rural environments.
If a person leaves friends and family behind to find a new life in the city, they quickly learn what truly matters. According to Psychology Today, sickness, cancer, and death rates double for people who are cut off from family and friends. The city life promises more opportunity and culture, but many people spend more time in traffic and less time in nature, less time making actual connections. As the pavement dictates people’s movements and as the laws and boundaries restrict human freedom in a crowded environment, more people feel the urge to exit the city gates.
In a fast-moving and over-populated environment, eye contact is only momentary as a person’s awareness shifts quickly from one person to the next. This stifles any meaningful connection between people, igniting the feeling of disconnection and threatening one’s mental health. Population density also leads to more short term relationships. In a city environment, long term intimacy with one partner is less a priority. The stimulation of the city environment excites desires that don’t always lead to long term fulfillment. The result is more depression, anxiety, abnormal sensory arousal, and higher suicide rates.
Dense crowds of anonymous strangers initially provide a sense of culture and opportunity, but when meaningful connection with people doesn’t occur, the dense crowds begin to overwhelm people with a sense of anxiety. As people come and go, there is a complete lack of meaningful conversation, a void of listening ears. Social isolation is so severe in the city; programs like Talk to Me and the Loneliness Project were created just to address the problem.
A greater sense of community is often found in rural environments because family, neighbors and friends must work together more closely to accomplish tasks. The slower pace of a rural environment occurs because people are actually listening to one another, caring, and solving problems. A rural environment provides less convenience, but sets people up to be more connected so they can help each other out. Rural environments foster meaningful skills and experiences that lead to happiness such as farming, hunting, bush craft, fishing, exploration, and hiking. This increase in self sufficiency gives people a greater sense of independence and stronger mental health. Rural environments also put people closer to nature and animals, providing natural connection to living things, natural landscapes, and challenging but rewarding experiences.
Check out more research on mental health at Mind.News.