Urban Culture

Living alone does not mean loneliness

Urban Living often means livng alone. As a single, at any age. Talks about the quality of livingin cities slowly turns to quality of single livngin cities. Countless rankings appeared in the last years, which city in the world is best for singles.

In a Forbes ranking for the U.S., Atlanta appeared as top cities for singles they looked through. With its number of nightspots per capita, hipness, gender balance and relatively high percentage of unmarried people (almost 70%), this city in the south of the U.S.  tops the list. San Francisco and Boston follow. In Europe, Edinburgh, Berlin, Vienna and Budapest are often at the top.

There is one thing in common, however. All these rankings assume that the goal for all these (mostly young) singles is to find Mr. or Mrs. Right. Quickly. But the reality is often more complex, as a recent BBC Loneliness Study has shown.

The survey found that people living alone weren’t necessarily more lonely than those who lived with others. And living alone isn’t as much of a problem as spending lots of time alone. People often choose to be alone, but they don’t choose loneliness. And we can be surrounded by friends and family but still feel lonely.

People of all age said that even small connections made a difference. The vast majority said that small talk during a ride on public transport or a smile from a stranger helped them to feel less lonely.

The Consequences: The increasing acceptance of living alone (without being lonely!) means new challenges for urban spaces. More apartments than planned, more shared spaces and more mobility. The times when people sit happily next to each other every evening watching telly are gone, not only for younger ones.

There are tremendous implications for cities: Urban Security and Public Transport, creating shared spaces and new forms of travel. Not only at night. Until all this infrastructure is in place, a smile at the right moment can still make a big diffence when moving through cities. But this is not really new.

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