People first learned the value of living in a village roughly 10,000 years ago, when several thousand nomads put down roots in a Turkish marsh.
The settlers of Catalhoyuk (“Chah-tahl-hew-yook”), widely considered to be the world’s first village, reaped transformative benefits. Crops offered a more stable diet. Language became more complex. People began to live longer.
That ancient impulse is all the more relevant today, amid growing and global concern that community ties are fraying. Technology keeps making people more physically comfortable – and more socially isolated. In a 2020 survey, 3 in 5 Americans said they were lonely. Yet Irvine has a natural advantage, thanks to its “master community builders,” who designed a city that caters to social ties through a village-centered plan.
Scientists have found increasing evidence that adults with close friends are at less risk for depression, high blood pressure and obesity. Social integration (your daily interactions with people) and social support (your ability to depend on each other) also offer protection from viral infections, research suggests.
Both of these qualities are embedded in Irvine’s Master Plan, says UCI assistant professor Kate Ryan Kuhlman, who studies psychological influences on the immune system. “Breaking up a large city into these village communities makes that combination of social integration and support more feasible,” says Kuhlman, who lives in University Hills.
“It really makes a difference if you feel part of a community, where you feel safe, and where you can call a neighbor if you need support,” she adds. After all, it’s the way humans have chosen to live – for the past 10,000 years.