Whilst researching my chosen subject, I came across many articles talking about and highlighting urban loneliness.

I came across an incredibly interesting article about how people try to avoid each other on public transport. It made me ask myself: are people making themselves lonely? Is this a hidden loneliness because it is becoming normal in cities to not interact with anyone?

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A sociologist who rode coach buses for three years has codified the unspoken rules of avoiding total strangers.

“We live in a world of strangers, where life in public spaces feels increasingly anonymous,” – sociologist Esther Kim.

Commenting on the avoidance on public transport, Esther’s view is clear:”Ultimately this nonsocial behaviour is due to the many frustrations of sharing a small public space together for a lengthy amount of time, Yet this deliberate disengagement is a calculated social action, which is part of a wider culture of social isolation in public spaces.”

I found it highly interesting to think that people in cities deliberately avoid others. The article talks about social isolation as part of a wider culture. This encourages me to think about our city culture being lonely but it being unnoticed because that is the culture now. Another article I read, stated that Single person households now make up a quarter of all homes in cities. Is this the way our cities are going to be? Is this problem of hidden or unrealised loneliness only going to get worse in the future. It is a sad affair that loneliness is becoming part of our culture in cities.

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“We live in a surveillance society, constantly monitored, constantly watched, yet paradoxically we have never been more solitary as we devise ever-more-ingenious ways to avoid talking to each other (via email, BlackBerry and text). Old people who don’t have access to the internet don’t even have that pleasure. You can spend whole days without catching someone else’s eye.

This lack of community has led to a breakdown in social cohesion. According to the Joseph Rowntree Trust, social isolation is the number one problem of our lives; only six out of 10 people trust their own neighbours (down from eight out of 10 in 2003).As tempting as it is to sneer at David Cameron’s concept of a Big Society, it might at least go some way to addressing the problem. Loneliness is hard to quantify, being a state of mind, and it won’t appear in any government statistics.”

An Australian article confirmed to me that it is not just british cities experiencing this loneliness. –


Isolation and loneliness pose an increasing threat to the health of Australians, many of whom are cut off from friends and locals by ill-conceived urban design, a report has warned. Social Cities, produced by public policy think tank the Grattan Institute, says that although social networks are better in Australia than many countries, friendships and neighbourhood connections have diminished over the past two decades, and the changing population means these trends could worsen. Between 1984 and 2005, the percentage of Australians who said they did not have any trusted friends rose from 4% to 6%, while the percentage who felt they could not call on  locals for help increased from 11% to 13%, according to research cited by the report. The figures are expected to worsen with the rise in the number of single-person households.

“Without relationships we wither – individually and collectively,”
“It’s now recognised that loneliness is up there with high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity, and smoking as an indicator of shortened life expectancy.”

One factor in the atomisation of local communities is the long, stressful distances many people commute to work.

Reading these articles has undoubtedly allowed me to gain in-depth knowledge and research on the subject and confirmed a lot of the observations that I have made from walking around Cardiff and London.


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