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Is Living in a City Healthy?

This week a majority of you voted to learn the answer to the question: ‘Is living in a city healthy”.

Living in London, this question interested me because I often feel stressed and overstimulated. There was a moment there where I really considered moving, but I began to question whether my stress was the city, or whether it was me. My guess going into this your stress and mental health depend on a number of factors, and although it can be easier to form bad habits in the city because of easy access, the truth is it’s down to you to manage stress in a city.

Let’s find out.

What are the pros and cons of city living?

Let’s start by looking at four pros and cons of living in a city when it comes to physical and mental health.

Cities often have better access to healthcare and people are closer to hospitals and places where they can receive treatment are easier to get to, especially for people in lower income brackets who might not have access to a car. On that point about the car, another pro for physical health in cities in public transportation options which promote physical activity and lower rates of obesity. Cities also tend to offer more recreational opportunities and leisure centres to get people moving. Lastly, there are more and better-paying job opportunities in a city with shorter commutes. Access to employment and shorter commutes have been shown to positively impact mental health and also match what I found in a past blog post exploring what makes people happy.

Cons include things like air pollution which can lead to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and other health issues and noise pollution which can disrupt sleep patterns, increase stress levels and long-term exposure to noise pollution with cardiovascular diseases and mental health disorders. Lastly, cities are also crowded and stressful, which can lead to overstimulation and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and mental health issues, this crowding is difficult to escape due to less access to nature and green spaces, which are linked to stress reduction and improved well-being.

Are people in cities happier than people living in rural areas?

Happiness is positively linked with health, so when it’s exploring this question I felt it was crucial to find out if people in cities are happier, however, the answer to this question is unclear.

People in urban areas report higher levels of subjective well-being because of access to opportunities for employment, social interaction, cultural activities, and access to services, which can contribute to overall life satisfaction, but rural areas often have tight-knit communities and social support networks, which can enhance subjective well-being, belonging and life satisfaction too.

It's important to note that happiness is subjective. There are nine key indicators of whether someone is likely to be happy, but individual preferences, values, and personal circumstances play a significant role. Some people may find happiness business of the city, while others may prefer the stillness of a forest. Overall, studies on urban vs. rural happiness vary in methodology and findings, so there’s no concrete answer I can give you (Can one of you reading get on this? Not knowing the answer is killing me, thanks in advance!)

Do people in cities live longer?

In terms of pure physical health, longevity is a common marker used to get people to do or not do certain things. If there’s one thing that’s for sure, time is limited no matter who you are, and most of us would like to have as much of it as possible.

Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between living in urban areas and increased life expectancy because of access to healthcare, an average higher socioeconomic status and better infrastructure.

So if you’re looking for a longer life, the city might be the place to be.

Is living in a city healthy?

We’re not sure if in a city isn’t healthier than living in a rural area and we don’t know if it makes people happier. People who live in cities live longer and report higher subjective well-being, the research isn’t conclusive and there are challenges around mental health and poor sleep for those in cities. It seems other factors make more of an impact, and they're within your control.

If you’re concerned about staying healthy in a city or in a rural area, I’ve put three tips for each below.

Three tips for staying healthy in a city you might not be doing

  1. Make the place you sleep is optimal for rest. That means do whatever you have to do to make that room as dark and as quiet as possible

  2. Make sure you stay social and find communities in the city. has great options. You could also look at sports teams, religious organisations, comedy writing gyms and more.

  3. Find a park nearby and go there… often!

Three tips for staying healthy in a rural area you might not be doing

  1. Stay active

  2. Have plans in place for getting to your nearest hospital in case of a medical emergency

  3. Make sure you’re going out in that greenspace you’re lucky enough to have at your front door!

Enjoyed this post?

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week where we'll explore another question keeping us up at night. If you have any ideas let me know in the contact form on my page!

Questions that keep me up at night - the blog for curious people every Wednesday at 9:00am.

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