Though there are factors that can make living in a big city hard on your body—stressful commutes, air pollution, and a lack of natural scenery—individuals who live in bustling metropolises tend to be healthier than small town and rural residents. In fact, a recent study showed that the five healthiest cities in America were among the largest and busiest: San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago held the top spots. Despite the negative sides of living in a big city, residents of these areas enjoy a wider range of resources that benefit their health and improve their lifestyles. Still, if you don’t live in one of these five cities, you’re not destined for poor health. This article will offer insight on why large cities boast healthier residents along with some tips for improving your health if you don’t have the right resources in your own community.
Availability of Fresh Foods
Big cities are shipping centers, which means that they receive a wide variety of fresh foods—particularly those grown locally in surrounding farm communities. There are typically supermarkets within walking distance of most neighborhoods, along with farmers’ markets and niche food sellers offering a wealth of healthy choices. Smaller cities and towns may not have many options for fresh food, as there may be limited selection in stores as well as a lack of local restaurants. Instead, you might see more chains and fast food establishments, which are well-known for large portions of highly processed foods. If you find yourself living in a food desert where fresh produce is a rare commodity, you might try growing your own fruits and vegetables in a small garden and preparing more meals at home. Community gardens can also be a great asset, which will improve the health of your family and your neighborhood as a whole.
Presence of Public Transportation
With urban infrastructure comes public transit, which encourages people to walk or bike for parts of their commutes before taking a train or bus, rather than driving everywhere. While it can be a challenge to get out for a walk or bike ride when sidewalks and bike lanes are not well-incorporated into your area, you can increase how much you get moving by parking further from your destination or biking through low-traffic streets off of main roads.
One of the first areas to champion anti-smoking laws was New York City, and other large cities have followed. Though many states have now passed laws to ban smoking indoors in public areas, it is large cities that tend to have the most limited availability of smoker-friendly outdoor areas like parks and restaurant patios. Overall, big cities tend to have lower smoking rates, because it is simply inconvenient to light up.
Easy Healthcare Access
Aside from basic lifestyle factors, big cities have a clear advantage when it comes to healthy living: Access to quality healthcare. In addition to a large pool of primary physicians, patients have access to specialists and technologically advanced care that is simply not available in smaller communities. When you have to drive 20-50 miles to see a doctor or go to the ER, it is likely that you will not be getting the care you need to stay well.
Fortunately, web consultations have made healthcare in rural areas and small towns much more accessible, since you can now see a doctor from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection and a web cam. Services like MeMD can help you get to get care no matter where you live, thanks to technology that makes it easy to connect with a medical provider on-demand 24/7.