Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Big Cities Healthier? How Some Cities Make Life Better, Study Says

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Big Cities Healthier? How Some Cities Make Life Better, Study Says

Article excerpt

Big cities are usually associated with cramped spaces, polluted air, and clogged up roads. But on the other hand, joggers, cyclists, and urban parks are also a ubiquitous element in cities.

Those contradictory factors are the reason why residents in big cities are healthier than in small communities, a new survey released by Gallup and Healthways on Tuesday says, part of its State of American Well-Being series. The presence of infrastructure in these cities promote active living, thus improving residents' overall well-being and happiness.

"Policies that nudge people into healthy activities - where it is easy to walk to the store, bike to a friend's house, get access to fresh produce and be surrounded by healthy-minded, supportive friends - are ones that make the healthy choice the easy choice," Dan Buettner, founder of the Healhways Blue Zones Project, said in the report. "Sustained transformation depends on building an environment and establishing social policies that support and reinforce these programs."

This occurs at a time when city living is becoming as popular as ever, especially among Millennials and young families who are drawn to the amenities and convenience of living downtown. The wealth of job opportunities in cities is also an attractive factor. In 2014, the United Nations declared for the first time that more than half of the people in the planet are now urban dwellers - and by 2050, two-thirds of people will be living within city limits.

The key to improving the quality of life for residents in big cities is the presence of infrastructure that promotes activity. Out of the 48 communities that the study analyzed, five of the highest- ranked communities with most infrastructure to promote active living also scored well on health and happiness indicators. The criteria for active living are all things that prompt Americans get off the couch and out from behind the steering wheel: walkability, bike- ability, transit infrastructure, and park infrastructure. …

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