This time last year, I had applied for a job in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK, the Lake District, with the idea of moving there with him as soon as possible.
I was somehow convinced that the hectic lifestyle and the chaotic energy of London were no good for him or for me. I thought the move would allow us to be closer to nature, live in a bigger and brighter house and be a part of a smaller and closer community. It could also mean better access to proper healthcare and support services. The high density of population in big cities can overwhelm the demand for Mental health services leading to a poor quality of care.
Having looked at these issues more closely now, there is evidence from India, a rapidly urbanising society to support these two facts:
- Psychiatric disorders are rising across the world in line with urbanisation.
- Cities are lonely zones. They breed psychiatric maladies. Increasing urbanisation means more loneliness and its collateral damage, depression.
The more cluttered our lives are with work, information, entertainment, technology and other trappings of worldly success, the less room we have for authentic intimacy and sharing of life’s challenges with those who really care. Until recently, the extended family and neighbours used to act as emotional buffers. Today, our cities are more crowded, yet more people live alone. Divorce rates are rising. There are more single person households. More people have fewer children. Work or education takes us far away from our families and communities. We constantly navigate between our needs to be on our own or with others. Over time, relationships thin out.
“Driven by the ‘cult of busyness’ we work more, sleep less, and allow technology to become the prime architect of our intimacies”, writes Sherry Turkle, MIT professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology, in her 2011 book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other. Loneliness also acts to increase our stress hormones, inhibit our immune system, stress our heart and is also a known factor for suicide.
Given that the rate of suicides and the use of antidepressants is steadily on the rise and so is urbanisation, there must be a co-relation. It is for us to recognise this malady and find a way of looking after ourselves and each other while living in big cities.