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Urbanites live longer, are healthier
Are you a die-hard city lover? You know, the type who thrives on the crowds, the energy, the noise, and even the occasional squalor of an urban environment -- and who doesn't mind sacrificing space and paying a fortune for the privilege of having all that culture and activity right outside your front door? Well, if so, you're not alone: According to recent U.N. statistics, 54% of the world's population now lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66% by 2050.
The reality is that there are also plenty of serious scientific benefits to urban living -- some of which will surprise you.
Benefit No. 1: City living is safer
City living must be more dangerous, right? Actually, it's the opposite. According to a study that appeared in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, injury-related mortality rates are lower in urban areas than in suburban or rural counties. How much lower? Well, the odds that you'll die from an injury are 1.22 times higher in the most rural counties compared with the most urban -- and the risk goes up the farther from a city you live. The fact that emergency care resources are more prevalent in more populated cities may be one (rather overwhelming) reason for this, but you can rest assured that there is apparently safety in numbers.
Benefit No. 2: City slickers are skinnier
Even without spending hours at the gym, city living will help keep you trim. A study in the Journal of Rural Health of more than 8,800 Americans found that city folk are 6% less likely to be obese than their country counterparts. The fact that many urbanites walk everywhere certainly helps.
Study author Christie Befort, an associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, KS, also theorizes that the physical isolation of rural settings and a higher fat diet that seems to be a cultural norm in those areas are also largely responsible for the obesity disparity.
Benefit No. 3: You'll be surrounded by smart people
Bright lights, big city! There's a reason ambitious people flock to cities -- it's because urban centers tend to attract the best and the brightest. According to a study in the journal Intelligence, people with the highest IQs migrate to cities. A desire for enhanced educational opportunities and bigger salaries were identified as some of the main reasons for this "cognitive flow." Or else maybe smarties just like stimulation -- and city living certainly provides that.
Benefit No. 4: City living is healthier
In addition to being skinny and safe, urbanites are just plain healthier all around. According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, health-related quality-of-life scores were significantly higher for people who live in urban settings than those in rural areas. Interestingly, however, this study indicated that the higher HRQOL scores for urbanites related mostly to physical health -- the mental health of city dwellers can still be affected by the constant hustle and bustle. That said, access to some of the top medical centers in the world in urban areas is definitely a city well-being perk.
"There is no doubt that people will generally find more advanced treatment options and also doctors skilled at modern practices in urban areas," says Dr. Elizabeth Manejias of Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "Because of the proximity to excellent resources and facilities, the best in their fields will generally gravitate toward urban centers because it's exciting to be on the cutting edge of medicine."
Benefit No. 5: Urbanites save a fortune in gas
According to the American Public Transportation Association's Transit Savings Report, individuals who shun driving and ride public transportation can save more than $781 per month. That translates to a savings of nearly $10,000 a year for city dwellers who ditch their autos for their daily commute. The annual savings are even higher in pricey locations such as New York City ($14,192), San Francisco ($12, 618), and Boston ($12,267).
Benefit No. 6: You'll likely live longer
If you think city living takes a toll, here's a wake-up call: You're likely to outlive the people who kick back in the sticks.
According to a study that appeared in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine examining the disparities between urban and rural life expectancies between 1969 and 2009, urban dwellers tend to live two years longer than country folk. Causes of death contributing most to the increasing cosmopolitan/country disparity include heart disease, unintentional injuries, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, stroke, suicide, and diabetes.
"People may also feel a greater sense of purpose living in a city filled with activities, which may contribute to their longevity as well," suggests Debbi DiMaggio, author of " The Art of Real Estate." Can't argue with that; an active mind equals a vibrant life, and city dwellers have the world at their feet.
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