This image shows a shift in lifespan. Back in the day living in the city such as New York was bad for your health and lifespan. Today people in New York live linger and healthier lives. Why?
This article suggests that once the crime issues had been addressed in the 1990’s, that it was the basic design of the city that has made the difference. Above all people are more active in New York – they don’t drive everywhere – mainly they walk. So we see the activity issue in play again – for in rural areas, we all get into the car for any reason. New York has 2 out of the 3 areas of Evolutionary Fit all there by design. Rural areas have none of them. You have to work hard in the rural areas to find this fit – odd isn’t it. Here are the details..
The new reality was that living in the suburbs and the country was the killer. In January 2005, Vlahov and his colleagues penned a manifesto they cleverly called “The Urban Health ‘Advantage,’ ” and published it in the Journal of Urban Health. Cities, they posited, were now the healthiest places of all, because their environment conferred subtle advantages—and guided its citizens, often quite unconsciously, to adopt healthier behaviors.
Three years ago, Lawrence Frank, a professor of urban planning at the University of British Columbia, set out to measure this effect, examining 10,858 people in Atlanta and the type of neighborhood they lived in. Some were in purely residential suburban neighborhoods, where you had to get in your car to buy a carton of milk; others lived in “mixed” downtown areas with shops within walking distance. When he checked the results, the health difference was shockingly large: A white man who lived in a more urban, mixed-use area was fully ten pounds lighter than a demographically identical guy who lived in a sprawling suburb.
“The more you drive, the more you weigh,” Frank tells me after I call him to talk about it. He was unsurprised when I described New York’s increases in life expectancy. “You put people in an environment where public transportation is rational and driving is almost impossible, and it would be shocking not to see this outcome,” he says. Other scientists suggest that New York’s benefits do not occur merely because the city is walkable. It’s also because New York is old and filled with attractive architecture and interesting street scenes—since, as it turns out, aesthetically pretty places lure people out of their homes and cars. A 2002 study by the National Institutes of Health found that people living in buildings built before 1973 were significantly more likely to walk one-mile distances than those living in areas with newer architecture—because their environments were less architecturally ugly.
At the same time, New Yorkers are also more likely to visit parks than people who live in sprawl, because the parks are closer at hand. And proximity matters, as a study by Deborah Cohen, a senior natural scientist at the rand Corporation, discovered. When she examined the use of several parks in Los Angeles, she found that almost half the people using any given park lived no more than a quarter-mile away. In contrast, only 13 percent of the people using the park had come from more than a mile away. “The farther you are, the less willing you are to go to the park,” she notes.
Interestingly, urban theorists believe it is not just the tightly packed nature of the city but also its social and economic density that has life-giving properties. When you’re jammed, sardinelike, up against your neighbors, it’s not hard to find a community of people who support you—friends or ethnic peers—and this strongly correlates with better health and a longer life. Then there are economies of scale: A big city has bigger hospitals that can afford better equipment—the future of medicine arrives here first. We also tend to enjoy healthier food options, since demanding foodies (vegetarians and the like) are aggregated in one place, making it a mecca for farm-fresh produce and top-quality fish, chicken, and beef. There’s also a richer cultural scene than in a small town, which helps keep people out and about and thus mentally stimulated.
Here is a link to a pdf by David Vlahov on the “Urban Health Advantage that inspired this article and this further research.
So we see here the full irony – a big city like New York offers us at least 2 out the the 3 major areas of “Fit”
- By design it promotes activity
- It offers the best chance of finding your valued tribal role in a community that cares for you – Seinfeld!
So if you then eat real food – you have the trifecta! And a place like New York offers better food too – like a magnet..
We also tend to enjoy healthier food options, since demanding foodies (vegetarians and the like) are aggregated in one place, making it a mecca for farm-fresh produce and top-quality fish, chicken, and beef.