Are the big cities healthier? Having large sidewalks for walking, access to parks and good public transportation makes city residents happy, according to a new survey.
Large cities are generally associated with narrow spaces, polluted air and clogged roads. But, on the other hand, corridors, cyclists and urban parks are also ubiquitous elements in cities.
Those contradictory factors are the reason why residents of big cities are healthier when compared to 48 medium-sized and large cities, says a new survey published by Gallup and Healthways, as part of its State of American Well-Being series. The presence of infrastructures in these cities promotes active life, thus improving the general welfare and happiness of its inhabitants.
"The policies that push people to healthy activities, where it's easy to walk to the supermarket, ride a bike to a friend's house, have access to fresh products and be surrounded by caring friends are the key", said Dan Buettner, founder of the Healhways Blue Zones Project, in the report. "The sustained transformation depends on the construction of an environment and the establishment of social policies that support and reinforce these programs."
This happens at a time when life in the city is becoming more popular than ever, especially among Millennials and young families who are attracted to the comforts of downtown living. 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 on the planet are now urban dwellers, and by 2050, two-thirds of people will live within the city limits.
The key to improving the quality of life of residents in large cities is the presence of an infrastructure that promotes activity. Of the 48 American cities analyzed in the study, five obtained good scores in health and happiness indicators.
The authors of the study encouraged urban planners and developers to invest in infrastructure that can improve well-being. They gave examples of communities that made that choice. For example, Albert Lea, Minnesota, adopted policies to reduce tobacco use in addition to launching programs in the workplace to promote health and social interaction. The results: an improved score in your wellness ranking at a faster pace than others throughout the state and country.
"Sustainable and durable well-being can be achieved when residents, city leaders, businesses, schools and other partners work together for the benefit of public health," Katrina Worlund, senior vice president of the Blue Zones Project at Healthways, said in a statement. . "In addition to healthier populations, communities benefit from lower health care costs, fewer chronic diseases and better productivity."