It is often said that we are living through another period of mass urbanisation – an age in which more and more people, in all regions of the world, are moving from rural towns and villages and trying to make their lives in cities – often megacities with upwards of 25m inhabitants. Indeed, the United Nations now predicts that by 2050 two-thirds of the global population will live in cities.
Policymakers have tended to concentrate on the economic and environmental consequences of this development. But there has been less attention to the effects that such a movement might have on mental health. Given that many experience urban stresses and strains – the hubbub, the noise, the competition, the density, the unnatural and frenzied atmosphere, the enforced proximity to strangers, the frequent combination of crowds and isolation – should we not be paying closer attention to the mental, and sometimes pathological, experience of city living itself?