Essay Topic: Happiness and the environment
Do aspects of living in modern cities (the built environment) have any impact on our happiness? Discuss with reference to the research that has explored the links between happiness and walkable cities, or happiness and mobility or access to transport options. Please use research from 2005 onward.
The association between city structure and mental health
The choice of lifestyle and the environment in which a person dwells play a vital role in determination of one’s mental well being and happiness as well. How and where we live has a great impact on the same. However the association of city structure to physical health is finally getting the desired kind of attention. The outline of the society and the neighbourhood impacts the health of a person mentally. Cities that have a well defined transport channel to the various leisure and cultural places enable to develop an environment of happiness. Socialising is the crux to a good quality of life so much that if a person does not have good connectivity with its family and friends then he may not feel happy in that environment (Kahneman & Krueger, 2006). Thus to eliminate loneliness and find happiness, mobility of a person is considered to be a must.
Societies that have greater ease of mobility are perceived to have broader opportunities, less differentiation and social conflict. As stated earlier, loneliness is said to be one of the reasons for a person to be sad and there can be many reasons to loneliness. Individuals who are residing in areas which are sparsely populated or if are densely populated do not have good neighbours are found to be more unhappy. But it is a known fact that if a person is engaged in some or the other activity always, then his level of happiness is more than the one who is relatively free always. And for a person to be engaged always, mobility and travel also has a major role to play (Berg et.al. 2016). Due to the said philosophy there has been a growing interest in the field of studying the relationship between the well being of a person and the behavioural patterns of mobility.
Even if the two words differ in meaning yet both the terms are closely related. Fewer researches have been conducted which shows that transportation and happiness are closely linked to each other. Curiosity has been seen growing towards the more objective actions of social activity versus the travel behaviour. Happiness of a person is basically directly linked to the social satisfaction of a person. With regards mobility, an individual possessing a separate car for oneself increases social satisfaction and in turn contentment. Simple reason behind the same is that car ownership helps to increase the mobility of a person even if the social network is widely dispersed. The living style of a person is said to have a positive impact if the person is staying in an area comprising of good public transport connectivity (Polydoropoulou et.al. 2010).
Importance of socializing and mobility
Recently, a study was conducted where minute examination of personal relations, neighbourhood, how a person behaves when he is travelling, his interaction and communications with the society, satisfaction that he attains with such an interaction and solitude was done. Solitude was measured using a three-item Loneliness Scale wherein the participants were asked how frequently do they feel left out and isolated. As a result it was found that participants owning a car feel the most isolated and thus have a negative impact on the social satisfaction (Litman, 2011). The highest degree of social satisfaction was found amongst the people who walk and also those individuals who cycle also have higher interaction level thus providing them high amount of social contentment. More the social contentment a person possesses, the happier he is. Thus this study has highlighted the how mobility plays an important role in defining whether a person is lonely or not.
As is understood now, happiness of a person is valued the most in the society. Thus people along with attempting to make oneself happy, also try to make the other person equally happy and this also has a very positive impact on the environment. There are four main qualities of life which can make a person content with life. The environment in which a person is living which comprises of the quality and the well being of the lifestyle of a person. One may be able found to be living in the best possible environment but still be unhappy if the environment restricts the movement of the individual. Confinement within four walls can never give the person a quality life. Secondly, is the ability of a person to manage with the issues that life has in store for him or her. Physical health being in good condition does not only connote a happy person if he is unable to tackle the various mental and emotional issues of the life successfully and environment has a major role to play for the same. Thirdly, if their is not aim and goal in life, then the person can again be unhappy and dissatisfied (Banister et.al. 2011). Lastly, is the summation of all the above three qualities which is self-satisfaction, wellbeing and ultimate happiness.
Jason Cao, a transport policy scholar at the University of Minnesota had conducted a short study that discusses about what a good well connected transport system mean to an individual and he concluded his research by a single word ‘satisfaction.’ He had conducted his study on the Hiawatha light rail line in Minneapolis and found that people using the rail line there for commuting were highly content due to the ease they felt in reaching their destinations. Thus easy accessibility to places by public transport brings in satisfaction which is a cause of happiness. Further in the year 2011, Eric Morris, a transport scholar also conducted a research and concluded that people living within a mile of the rail line also impacted the quality of their life. It did not concern them whether they had a personal car of their own but the very fact that they were residing near a rail line made them happy (Jaffe 2013). Psychologically, people think that travelling using public transport brought ease in mobility, thus freeing them from any sort of confinement in case the traveller did not know how to drive or the car was not available during need.
Together these interesting bits of study conducted by various scholars incline towards the fact that a well planned and simulated transportation system can drive the emotional quotient of a person towards an optimistic direction. If the emotional quotient of a person is satisfied, he is automatically found to be happy with life (Stanley et.al. 2011). Assessment of happiness although not confined to only one part of the environment, comprising of a good mobility system but has various other aspects as well such as a good social environment, the unity with neighbours and how lonely a person is. Mobility basically tries to eradicate the issues of isolation, difficulty in becoming social due to restrictions in movements as well as maintenance of relations across all borders by a well built system of transport which would give happiness to a person. The study highlighted how mobility can break the feeling of loneliness of a person. A good transport mechanism is a sign of a happy life generally since social networks can expand leading to communications across all boundaries with ease. An environment can provide happiness to a person only if the same is developed in a manner which gives positive vibes to those residing in that surrounding. Just ensuring that all facilities are there, but people are not satisfied with performance of facilities cannot bring pleasure and happiness.
Banister,D., Anderton,K., Bonilla,D., Givoni,M., & Schwanen,T. (2011). Transportation and the environment. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 36. 247-270
Berg, P., Kemperman, A., Kleijn, B.D., & Borgers, A. (2016). Ageing and loneliness: The role of mobility and the built environment. Travel Behaviour and Society. 5. 48-55
Jaffe,E. (2013). Living Near Good Transit May Make You Happier. Retrieved from https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2013/09/living-near-good-transit-may-make-you-happier/6867/
Kahneman,D., & Krueger, A.B. (2006). Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 20(1). 3-24
Litman,T. (2011). Mobility as a Positional Good : Implications for Transport Policy and Planning. Retrieved from https://www.vtpi.org/prestige.pdf
Polydoropoulou,A., Limao,S., Duarte,A., Garcia,C., & Litinas,N. (2010). Experienced and Expected Happiness in Transport Mode Decision Making Process. Retrieved from https://www.wctrs.leeds.ac.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/abstracts/lisbon/general/03389.pdf
Stanley,J.K., Hensher, D.A., Stanley, J.R., & Vella-Brodrick, D. (2011). Mobility, social exclusion and well-being : exploring the links. Transportation Research Part A. 45(8). 789-801
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