It’s only recently that city-dwelling has overtaken rural life as the more popular way to live – but that doesn't mean we should lose the close-knit community spirit of a village or town and the benefits that come with it.
According to Psychology Today, experiencing "quality social connections" promotes good health and wellbeing. So, how can we maintain community spirit in this new hybrid world of city and rural life?
Data from the UN shows that, since 2007, more people globally have lived in urban areas than rural ones – and that number continues to rise.
According to 2021 data, the estimated number of people living in urban areas was 4.3 billion people – more than half the world’s population.
By 2050, it is estimated that more than two thirds of the world's population will live in cities. This can be seen in the UK too, as the population of some cities has more than doubled in 20 years, according to property investors Buy Association.
What does it mean for community spirit?
A move to city living could mark a significant shift away from more traditional, small, close-knit communities.
Quality community social connections are more closely linked with rural living where, in villages and towns, people know each other by name and are willing to stop and chat, to engage and socialise and to support one another. In cities, people are more likely to live more solitary lives, may not know their neighbours and may not have such a strong inclination to support local businesses, charities and causes.
According to the World Happiness Report (WHR), social support and benevolence has increased across the board since the pandemic, highlighting what it has describes as "the capacity of individuals to rally to each other’s support in times of great need." This increase has been found to improve people's wellbeing.
The findings from the report are in line with Psychology Today's explanation of how we have a biological need for community, too. "What we experience in our minds is highly influenced by our relationships and shared connections with others. Our network of social supports serves as the most profound predictor of our health and wellbeing."
How to promote community spirit in a city
Just because you live in a city doesn't mean you're not happy, but if you are looking for a stronger sense of community there are plenty of ways to build one. You could consider starting a book club on your street, join a singing group or volunteer at your local school or food bank.
You can also look for virtual groups to join online. If you are struggling with something, there will likely be a group, forum or existing online community you can join to discuss what you're going through. The Mental Health Foundation charity says: "Posting on online forums can connect you to support and advice from others who understand what you’re going through."
However, the internet can be a difficult place to navigate when it comes to finding like-minded people. To help, here are some online community platforms to explore:
For women, the Peanut app is a platform to discuss various female experiences, including fertility, birth and menopause, in a non competitive way.
Substack is a place for writers to share their craft via features or newsletters. You can sign up to follow voices you like or search by subject. You can interact with others in a non obtrusive way and at a slow pace.
Reddit is a long-standing community platform, where you can engage with news and media, and create your own community based on your interests.
Book lovers will know Goodreads, which is full of community-written book reviews. You can also track what you've read, what you want to read and hear reliable recommendations.
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