balancing stones concept   3d illustration

“The quality of urban life depends on social ties”

The confinements that we have experienced have highlighted a paradox: in many cases, forced isolation has had more negative impacts on the mental and physical health of individuals than the promiscuity suffered. Indeed, although the overdensity within the dwellings was painful in many situations, feeling united in the difficulty was mostly experienced as reassuring. Belonging to a family or a social collective has had direct positive repercussions on the health and longevity of individuals. This finding is now confirmed by the 4,000 people who agreed to respond to the first urban health and quality of life observatory. Its principle: to transpose to the inhabitants of an urban area the psychosocial risk analysis grids used in companies to advise municipalities from the angle of the “psychological health” of their constituents. Tested in 2022, in 2023 it will lead to the “Happy City” label, which will award one to five stars to each city that wishes to be analysed.

Daily irritants

Face-to-face interaction releases a whole cascade of neurotransmitters that promote trust, reduce stress, temper mental load, kill pain, and induce pleasure. This is why dementia rates are lowest among socially engaged people. Living in the same residential space creates habits, rhythms, uses and common frames of reference among individuals. These ways of living are woven and developed within the same environment to form an “urban culture” common to the residents and users of a district. These opportunities to meet regularly, and therefore to protect themselves mentally and physically, must be identified, preserved and understood in order to help residents deal with the “irritants” of everyday life: noise, incivility, etc. This is why urban psychology was created.

Social and spatial well-being

Protecting “urban freedom”, which involves social and spatial well-being, contributing to its implementation, and measuring it objectively is the primary vocation of urban psychology. In addition to the layout of spaces, there are a multitude of sensitive and spontaneous elements that can interact with well-being and social ties in the city. The best example: urban rites, habits that shape our daily use of the immediate environment, routes, small occupations that take place day after day to become regular, reassuring and play a role in our attachment to a place.

It is therefore essential to imagine urban ensembles that promote the development of these virtuous habits to help improve the quality of urban life. It is necessary for community leaders to call on urban psychologists to analyze, measure, understand and then reduce risk factors and preserve protective factors. Depending on their recommendations, cities will be able to promote the development of their inhabitants and multiply the conditions that allow them to live together harmoniously in the same place.