40 Ways Living in a City Makes You Healthier
Bright lights, big benefits.
Everywhere you turn, there's someone going on and on about the many wonders of rural life. From the fresh air to the grass beneath your feet, there are innumerable individuals who will eagerly tell you that the cure to all that ails you is a bucolic break from the hustle and bustle of urban living. So, where does that leave those of us who can't quit city life?
Luckily, there are many factors inherent to urban environments that are actually better for you than those rolling hills and babbling brooks in the country. With that in mind, we've rounded up 40 ways living in the city makes you healthier, each certain to make you ready to trade those sprawling suburban homes for a shoebox in the sky. And when you want to see what all the fuss is about, make sure to check out The 20 Best Cities to Visit Before You Die.
You walk more
One of the biggest benefits of living in a city? The walkability. Considering that just 21.7 percent of Americans get the recommended amount of combined aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise, living somewhere walkable can significantly reduce your risk of health issues like obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. And when you want to see what all the fuss is about, make sure to check out The 20 Best Cities to Visit Before You Die.
Better access to healthy food
Just because you live in the country doesn't mean you necessarily have easy access to healthy food, especially when getting to your local store can mean spending an hour each way in the car. However, in major cities, not only are fresh fruit and vegetables available at virtually every corner store, but also delivery services mean getting a kale salad at 2 a.m. is far from out of the question.
It's easier to see your friends
Living in a city makes it easy to see your friends, even if their neighborhood is miles away from yours. While in a suburban or rural area, seeing friends can mean a long trip in the car, in a city, it can be as easy as walking down the block or hopping on public transportation. Better yet, according to a study published in Personal Relationships, having a wide circle of friends can actually increase your health as you age, as well as your longevity.
You drink less
Think that living in a land of 4 a.m. last calls means you'll drink more? Think again. According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, adults in remote areas were 11 percent more likely to drink to excess than their urban counterparts.
Your risk of violence or an accident is lower
If you want to live a safer life, the city might just be the place to do it. According to one study, your overall risk of being accidentally mortally injured is significantly lower in a city than in a rural area.
Less time spent commuting
According to research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, long commutes are significantly correlated with increased weight gain among adults. The good news? People living and working in urban areas tend to spend less time commuting than those heading into the city from the suburbs, and better yet, many city-dwellers can easily walk to and from work. But it'd be helpful to bear in mind the 50 American Cities with the Worst Commutes.
Cultural attractions at your fingertips
Those cultural attractions in urban areas do more than just give you something to do: they may actually save your life. In fact, research published in the journal Dementia reveals that regular trips to museums improved both the mood and overall well-being of adults with dementia. And for more ways to boost your brainpower, add The 50 Best Foods for Your Brain to Your Menu.
Faster emergency response
If you need help in an emergency, you're more likely to get it in an expeditious manner in an urban area. While it may take an hour for an ambulance to reach your remote rural home, odds are you're within a few minutes of a firehouse, police station, or hospital if you live in a city.
Gyms are everywhere
Want to get fit? You shouldn't have any trouble doing so if you're living in a city. While your small town may only have one overcrowded gym, urban areas have fitness offerings on virtually every corner.
The relative safety and ease provided by urban bike lanes might just save your life. In fact, according to a study published in the BMJ, an active commute, like biking, is effective at reducing a person's risk of heart disease, cancer, and premature death.
Meeting friends is easy
The ease of making friends in a major city has a big benefit for your brain. According to one study, having close friends can increase your chances of survival with dementia.
It's easier to meet someone to date
In a small town, dating can be a tough game, with few prospects available to you. However, in a major city, you can easily find someone to date, and may even live longer because of it. In fact, research suggests that a happy relationship may even keep your blood pressure lower, increasing your life expectancy along the way.
There are more doctors
Need to go to a doctor? If you're in a major city, you're in luck. In a rural area, you may have just a small handful of medical professionals to choose from, in a city, if you can't get an appointment with one doctor, there are hundreds of others who can treat you in a hurry.
Things stay open late
Need allergy medication at 3 a. m.? Not a problem. Living in a city means access to virtually any medicine you want at any time of day.
More opportunities for physical recreation
Joining your company's softball team may be your only opportunity to stay fit in the country, but in urban areas, opportunities for recreation abound. Whether you're joining a local kickball league or starting the day with yoga in a local park, all the opportunities for physical activity close to home can help you stay both physically and mentally fit.
Fewer chances to be bored
Want to find people who share your hobbies? Not a problem in a big city. No matter what your passion, you're bound to find plenty of likeminded people to spend your time with—and better yet, research reveals that both socializing and spending time on leisure activities can reduce your risk of dementia.
Interactions with other cultures
One thing cities have that can benefit you in surprising ways: access to other cultures. The diversity that comes along with urban living can dramatically expand your horizons, making you smarter and healthier along the way. In fact, one study reveals that diversity can improve a person's critical thinking skills, making it easier to make informed decisions about their life and health.
Eager to grow fresh veggies, but don't have space in your apartment? All it takes is a stroll through your neighborhood to the nearest community garden for those living in urban areas. Better yet, research from UCLA reveals that children with access to community gardens had healthier diets and a reduced risk of obesity.
Want to make your kids healthier and smarter? Try moving to a city. Research published in Pediatrics reveals that there's a strong correlation between academic achievement and physical activity, and luckily, city kids who get in plenty of walking are likely to get more regular exercise than their car-commuting counterparts.
Say what you will about the air quality in cities, but there's one clear benefit you probably won't find in a small town: smoking bans. Countless major cities have implemented smoking bans you're unlikely to find in rural areas, meaning it's easier to walk down the street without walking through a cloud of cigarette smoke.
More options for alternative medicine
Don't feel like being treated with Western medicine? Not a problem if you're in a city. In fact, you're likely to find everything from herbalists to acupuncturists in abundance if you live in a major metropolitan area—not something that's necessarily true in more rural environments.
Less drunk driving
Good public transportation has lots of benefits, including one for your health: fewer drunk driving accidents. If you can easily grab a cab, train, or bus home after a few drinks at the bar, you're undeniably safer.
Fewer pool accidents
Approximately 10 people die per day in the United States from accidental drowning, a not-insignificant portion of which occurs in a backyard pool. However, few urbanites have to worry about this risk to their safety—most city-dwellers are lucky if their apartment even has a working bathtub.
Non-stop farmers' markets
Want some of the freshest produce you'll ever eat? While farm stands in rural areas tend to close in the late fall and winter, if you live in a city, farmers' markets are abundant year-round.
Fitness fads hit cities first
Need a new way to get in some regular exercise? For urbanites, that's no problem—since fitness trends hit cities first, there's always a fun new way to break a sweat.
Better access to mental health services
Of course, your mental health is just as important as your physical health in the long run. But in cities, there are countless mental health professionals to choose from, and in many urban centers, it's easy to find someone who works with your insurance or budget.
City living makes people happier
Think city living and depression go hand-in-hand? Think again. According to one study, city living is actually linked to greater happiness.
People in cities have higher incomes
While money can't buy you happiness, it can buy you better healthcare. In urban areas, where salaries tend to be higher, individuals have access to a higher standard of care, as well.
Less opioid related crime
The opioid epidemic has hit America hard, but the criminality associated with it is actually lower in urban areas, according to one report. In fact, rural opioid users were less likely to consider hard drug use a risky behavior and more likely to get arrested for drugs or other crimes.
Fewer power outages
While a fallen tree branch in a rural area may mean a lengthy power outage, cities have relatively few blackouts in comparison. Though this may not seem like a big deal, it's an undeniably huge one for those who have electrically-powered medical equipment or medication that needs to be kept refrigerated.
In most major cities, the heavily-filtered tap water is clean, delicious, and ready to drink. However, in areas where you have to rely on well water, you're the one responsible for making sure that potentially illness-promoting bacteria, like coliform, aren't invading your drinking supply. And for more chances to hydrate the healthy way, check out The 25 U.S. Cities with the Best Drinking Water.
Job hunts are less stressful
Stress is a major impediment to our overall health, with the associated rise in cortisol levels putting us at risk for everything from obesity to heart disease. Luckily, job hunting isn't nearly as stressful in urban areas as it is in rural ones; according to one recent report, the bulk of new jobs are located in urban centers, while suburban employment opportunities are shrinking.
Condoms are easier to come by
Don't have a condom and your local pharmacy is closed in a big city? Not a problem: in addition to the endless supply at your local bodega, condoms are readily available at countless big city bars, too.
Surveillance is everywhere
A surprising boon to your mental health? All the cameras in urban areas. If you're living in a major city, odds are, you're walking past tons of places capturing your image as you walk home at night, giving you some peace of mind when you're flying solo on a dark winter evening.
You're rarely alone
If you're a city-dweller, it's almost impossible to be completely alone—and that's a good thing. In fact, one study from Brigham Young University suggests that loneliness may put you at greater risk for an early death than smoking or obesity.
Urban families tend to be smaller
The constraints of living in a small apartment often means that urban families are smaller than their suburban or rural counterparts. And that's good news for our overall health: researchers at the London School of Economics have found a correlation between smaller family size and increased parental happiness.
Even if you're not earning a six-figure salary, you still probably won't have a hard time coming by medical treatment in an urban area. While free clinics are few and far between, and it may take you some time to get to one in a rural area, they're relatively easy to access for those who need them in urban centers.
No lawnmower accidents
One major benefit of living somewhere with no yard to keep up with? You won't be one of the 80,000 people in the U.S. alone who wind up in the hospital due to lawnmower accidents.
You're exposed to more germs
Want to boost your immune system? All it takes is a ride on public transportation. Being exposed to a wide variety of germs might just help you stay healthier in the long run.
People in cities live longer
According to research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, over a 40-year period, people living in urban areas saw significant increases in their life expectancy, with urban individuals living an average of two years longer than their rural counterparts. And when you want to extend your own longevity, check out these 100 Ways to Live to 100!
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