Back in 2016 the Guardian Cities published an article about loneliness in the global city. They cite a study that found young people in London are twice as likely to be lonely as those in the rest of the country. The piece also includes vignettes on loneliness from various city residents.
This effect seems to be real. It’s definitely more difficult to establish friendships and relationships of depths in Manhattan than it is in other places I’ve been. You hear people talk about it and it’s clearly a concern of many. And not without reason. Loneliness can reduce immune system effectives, raise inflammation levels, and have other negative physical and psychological effects.
I can’t help but contrast the urbanist views of the ills of living in the city, such as higher levels of loneliness, with the economic malaise in working class towns. In the former cases, the problems are ones that need to be solved. In the latter ones, people can be quick to jump to the recommendation that the people stuck there without jobs should simply move. This is sometimes said in a strident tone as if people who refuse deserve their fate.
Migration actually can be a solution to some problems such as finding a job. But that applies equally as much to those who live in global cities. If you’re lonely and having problems making close friends, maybe the answer is to move someplace where establishing friendships is easier. One could apply this to all sorts of things. If you can’t afford the rent, get out.
I notice the urbanist/media types seem rarely willing to prescribe the same medicine to themselves that they readily dispense to others. The idea of leaving as a solution doesn’t seem to be on the radar.
The truth is, some people should be moving – both out of major global cities and out of struggling working class areas. That doesn’t mean neglecting the problems of either class of places (affordability, joblessness). It doesn’t mean forcing people to move. But migration is probably part of the equation.
Regardless of how one feels about it, we should at least be consistent in how we apply the suggestion to move as a solution to place based problems.