Urbanization is the increase in the proportion of a population living in urban areas and the process by which an area loses its rural character and way of life. Urbanization is a consequence mainly of rural to urban migration and has been happening in India for decades. Since liberalization in the early 90s, the speed of urbanization has rapidly increased.
This rapidly changing external environment affects all aspects of human life like food consumption, social relations, behaviors, and lifestyles – all of which constitute what we collectively refer to as a lifestyle. This transition from rural to urban living is often prompted by promises of increased economic opportunities and cheaper health care, education, and transportation.
However, these rural-to-urban transitions are often less than ideal for the health and well-being of the individuals. Urbanization and modernization together have lead to a large increase in the number of people who are living an unhealthy lifestyle. This has happened due to a variety of factors that include a) Pollution caused by urban sprawl, and subsequent contamination of our air and water b) Processed, but often unhealthy food, becoming cheaper and more popular than healthy food c) Emerging technologies causing a change in lifestyle that has decreased physical activities of individuals.
As the world is getting more connected, people are finding themselves lonelier. All of these lifestyle changes have lead to a variety of illnesses: metabolic diseases, joint and skeletal problems, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, obesity, etc. The adoption of an urban lifestyle has resulted in the consumption of food with high-fat content and an increase in the frequency of food consumption, large portion sizes of food, and reduced physical activity.
High-calorie junk foods, full of chemical additives, over-processed, or loaded with sugar, have replaced locally grown, fresh produce in today’s time. This shift towards the consumption of processed foods, sugary drinks, refined vegetable oils, chemically preserved food, is the primary reason why people across the world, even the young, are becoming obese and sick by the day. Hence there is now renewed emphasis on the need to eat a wide variety of natural form of food that is nutrient-rich and supports the revival of health. Food rich in vitamins, minerals, probiotics, Omega-3s, and lean proteins is known to support this cause.
Diet is the biggest factor in lifestyle-related health issues and has a direct and positive relation with health. Poor diet and its consequences like obesity is a common health problem in urban societies. As populations become increasingly concentrated in cities, understanding what to grow for eating, and how to do it will lead to better health outcomes.
Considering the complex situation, a solution needs to rely on collaborations between many disciplines including social scientists, health professionals, environmentalists, and food produce suppliers. On top of this, there needs to be considerable effort put into nutrition education to build awareness about the issue. Together with nutritional awareness, eco- friendly technologies like vertical farming, water re-circulatory farming and better logistics can ensure people have the means to build good health.