The Causes And Effects Of Urbanisation

City life has its benefits but it can also have some health negatives. Here we talk about the effects of urbanisation.

Jet setting all across the world is an acquaintance who works for a well known airline as a flight  attendant whom we’ll call her Kendra. 

During a meeting over coffee recently in Prague she moaned: “After seeing so many beautiful places and staying at four star hotels, I crash land into a ghetto alley once I return to New York. Accommodations have become so forbiddingly expensive that a shared room is all I can afford”. And mind you she’s fairly well paid.

This is in a city where the mean income is 50,000 dollars and at the lower end of the socio economic strata many earn around 21,000 dollars.

So here we have an example of one of the effects of urbanisation and Kendra is not a stray case. She serves as an example of what many millions across the world have to endure. 



According to estimates there are about half a million converted dwellings in New York City  and New Jersey which include subdivided apartments, basements, attics, warehouses and industrial spaces.

In 1950 the population of New York City was about 12 million and today it’s bursting at the seams with close to 19 million inhabitants. 

Other cities such as New Delhi have had it much worse, which had a population of just 1.4 million in 1950 and today the numbers stand at a staggering 31.2 million. 

The air is so bad, mainly due vehicular pollution, that even children breath in toxic fumes that are equivalent to smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day.

Urbanisation is generally defined as the process by which large numbers of people become permanently concentrated in relatively small areas and go on to establish cities in those areas.


Why Is This Happening?

The two main causes of urbanisation are the increase in population due to the natural birth rate and more so on account of migration from rural areas. 

This has also led to what we call mega-cities which have a population of more than 10 million.

People gravitate towards cities due to industrialisation and commercialisation which lead to better employment opportunities and modernisation in lifestyle. 

While these may broadly be the causes, the effects are numerous. Many of them are quite alarming.

The immense concentration of people vying for housing and resources ends up creating overcrowding and more often than not, generating the perfect conditions for slums, bad sanitation, high crime rates and even unemployment. 

Heavy pollution, degradation of the environment and unaffordable housing are other outcomes. 

Many cities even face power and water shortages.

Additionally, according to studies, living in cities is connected to higher rates of mental health diseases where about 40% are estimated to suffer from chronic depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. 

This is said to happen due to unaffordability, isolation and loneliness.


How Do We Fix It?

According to the European Commission this is a smart city: “A smart city is a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital solutions for the benefit of its inhabitants and business. 

“A smart city goes beyond the use of digital technologies for better resource use and less emissions. 

“It means smarter urban transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities and more efficient ways to light and heat buildings. 

“It also means a more interactive and responsive city administration, safer public spaces and meeting the needs of an ageing population.”

All very good. But this would still not address most of the underlying problems with urbanisation.

Ideally, well planned and managed urbanisation should reduce poverty, create more equality, improve employment opportunities, better education and health.

Since more than half the population of the world lives in cities and because GDP has become such and important term in our modern society, widening urbanisation through the medium of creating new cities that are well spread out may be a solution to addressing, if not all, but some of the major problems or let’s say effects of urbanisation including population density and uneven growth.

Photos: Shutterstock

Climate also has its effects on urbanisation. We check it out here:

The Natural Consequences of Hot Weather and Climate

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