THE specific effects of population pressure on the quality of everyday life should be of pressing social and policy concern; and although population studies have proliferated in the behavioural sciences, research has focused primarily on fertility-related behaviours1,2. Moreover, the few social scientists interested in the relationship of the numbers of humans to individual human behaviour have been puzzled by a dearth of clear-cut effects3. This study reports preliminary analyses from a larger cross-cultural investigation of the quality of life. Following a suggestion from Lowin et al.4, we have systematically observed the rates of pedestrian locomotion over a constant distance in 15 cities and towns in six countries in Europe, Asia and North America. The results of these observations indicate that pace of life varies in a regular fashion with the size of the local population, regardless of the cultural setting.