The size of your city matters for well-being
Bigger is better.
New data from 121,000 people released Monday from Gallup and Sharecare reveals that those who live in bigger cities — defined as spots with 1 million residents or more — have higher levels of well-being than those who live in smaller cities, towns or rural areas. In terms of overall well-being, large cities score a 61.7 out of 100 on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, compared to small cities and rural areas, which score 61.
“That’s not a gaping difference, but it’s not nothing,” Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, tells Moneyish. “It is meaningfully large, and it adds up over enough metrics that large cities do have a significant well-being advantage.”
The well-being score measures five elements : 1) purpose, including liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals; 2) social, like having supportive relationships and love in your life; 3) financial, including managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security; 4) community, such as liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community; and 5) physical, including having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.
The biggest area in which big cities stand out is on physical health, where their residents score a 61.3, compared to a 58.7 for small towns and rural areas. “Residents of large communities have higher levels of physical well-being, primarily because of lower rates of obesity and other chronic diseases. They are also more likely to engage in healthy behaviors such as visiting the dentist and not smoking,” the report notes. This may be “attributable to cultural norms and more readily available built infrastructure such as parks, bike paths and fitness centers.” Big city dwellers also beat out small town and rural residents when it comes to social (+0.6) and financial (+0.9) factors.
The big measurement where small towns and rural areas stand out is on community. “Residents of small towns and rural areas are more likely to report that they always feel safe and secure, to feel their area is ‘perfect’ for them and to be recognized for volunteering in a way that improves the areas where they live,” the report notes. They also have a small advantage on purpose (+2.6).
This all comes at a time when overall well-being is falling for everyone in the country, no matter where they live. “Before 2017, well-being in the U.S. had risen for two consecutive years,” the report notes. The reason for this is uncertain, but Witters notes that, in President Trump’s first year, well-being fell for Democrats, women and many minorities in particular, which may be pulling down the overall score for everyone. “This strongly shows ‘a Trump effect,” he concludes.
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