Cities keep people healthier

A new report has found that inner city living is healthier than suburban living. It might even make us happier, too.

A new study from the University of Hong Kong (UHK) and the University of Oxford shows that people living in city centres are more active and more socially engaged that people living in suburbs. Overall, those in built-up residential areas had lower levels of obesity, leading the researchers to conclude that politicians should do more to promote the benefits of downtown living.

“If we can convince policy makers that this is a public health opportunity, we can build well-designed communities, and in the long term, you have made a big difference in health outcomes,” the study’s co-author Chinmoy Sarkar, an assistant professor at UHK, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“With evidence, we can plan multi-functional, attractive neighbourhoods that promote physical activity, promote social interaction, and shield from negatives such as pollution and feeling unsafe.”

Cities become more walkable as they get more compact, and denser residential areas tend to be better designed and more attractive destinations that offer people greater opportunities for social interaction and support.

By overturning the assumption that suburban living with its open, emptier spaces offer a better quality of life, the authors would like to see governments adopt high-density, urban development policies based on “the data, rather than relying on urban myths about what makes cities work”.


Image credit: Freedom II Andres via Flickr

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