Urban Living Series: Health Benefits of Living in the City

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

This blog covers a debate that could go on forever: does one’s health improve after a move to the city? Arguments both for and against each side are plentiful, but the research in this post shows there’s a clear winner. Here’s some evidence to support the claim that an urban lifestyle contributes to one’s health and wellness:

Close Proximity to Healthcare Facilities

Let’s start with the obvious. Living in a more populated area naturally puts us closer to many things, including the healthcare industry. Hospitals, physicians’ offices, and specialty health care facilities are closer to the patient in an urban environment. This is especially beneficial for seniors who may engage in more frequent healthcare visits or anyone diagnosed as being at-risk for an ER visit.

Smaller Carbon Footprint

This one contributes to the health of the individual as well as society. It’s easy being green when you live in the city! Citizens who are committed to environmental stewardship will find city life appealing. Urban homesteading (i.e. growing one’s own food and making one’s own supplies) is no longer an alternative lifestyle. You can grow tomatoes, parsley, and carrots in a small space without being an expert on gardening. When the harvest is complete mulch the dry leaves and drop vegetables into the soil. Consider planting a second round including pumpkins and zinnias.

You can also make your own laundry detergent in a small, urban kitchen as well. Some favorite tutorials for powder and liquid detergents can be found on the WellnessMama blog and HouseLogic.com.

Plus, urban life typically comes with shorter commutes (if you even have to drive at all). Less time on the road before and after work or school means more time for recreation, family, or anything that helps you do you. You’ll also spend less money on gas. And not to be an alarmist, but according to the United States Department of Transportation, vehicle crash fatalities are trending upward to nearly 40,000 per year. Less time behind the wheel is a good thing all-around.

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Fitness, Fitness, Fitness

Walk, ride, or roll to your destinations.

Pure fitness also comes into play when debating an urban versus suburban/rural existence. Remember how closer proximity to healthcare facilities can lead to increased use of both preventive and reactive healthcare? Closer proximity to gyms, tracks, trails, and organized runs can also benefit one’s health. Being in the presence of other fitness-minded individuals is a great motivator to get up off the couch. Plus, city tax dollars often support things like 5K events and linear trail systems. Strength in numbers, friends!

Minimalist Lifestyle

Less is more when it comes to the good life. Declutter and you’ll find more space for enjoying real life. Urbanites must embrace minimalism by necessity, and some initially fear that letting go of unused rooms and shedding piles of possessions could be a difficult lifestyle change. On the contrary, having less means doing more and can increase one’s quality of life. According to celebrity minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the minimalist lifestyle is “a life with more time, more money, and more freedom.” 

If you’d like to try your hand at decluttering, check out The Porch’s previous blog on making the most of smaller spaces.

Enhanced Social Life

If you like to get out and socialize, city life is for you. An urban lifestyle puts you close to the action. Arts, culture, nightlife, shopping, and places of worship are all within your reach when you live central. If you’re still considering a move to the city and want to make sure your location is near to your favorite amenities, check out WalkScore.com for an assessment.

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Lower Injury Rate

Statistics show that urbanites have a lower incidence of injury than our suburban and rural counterparts. The Annals of Emergency Medicine (a scholarly journal published internationally) found that deaths caused by injury in the United States were lower for urban vs. rural areas over a seven-year period. The cause for such a statistic has not been determined, as far as I could find in any publicly-available academic journals. It may be because of the fitness options included in city life, or maybe cities have less tripping hazards than suburban or rural areas. Perhaps city folks are more cautious and self-aware because they often find themselves in the presence of others? Whatever the reason, you’re less likely to suffer an injury while living in an urban environment.

One More Reason

There are many benefits to the urban lifestyle, and an enhanced health profile is one more reason to choose city life. Consider a move to the city the next time you relocate. If you’re already an urbanite, take advantage of the opportunities for better health. It all comes down to choices. Each day is a new chance to take good care of yourself and your neighbors. Health equals wealth and healthy choices can pay back with dividends.

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