We’re often told that city living is bad for our health. From the endless pollution to a lack of greenspaces, recent research now tells us that the country is the place to be for a healthier life. Arguments for town/city living include better access to resources and the social element that comes with living in a highly populated area. So which is better – town or country? It’s a tough question to answer with many valid arguments, and whilst you may find that one is more preferable than the other, it’s important you take steps to look after your health, wherever you live.
The latest in the ‘town or country’ debate
Each time a new study is published regarding city or country living and health, the debate reopens. The latest catalyst is the publication of a study which suggests that people who live near major roads have increased dementia rates. The research was carried out in Canada over the course of 11 years, and found that air pollution and the noise caused by traffic could have an effect on the brain’s decline. It applied to people who lived within 50m of a major road, and was deemed a ‘plausible’ argument by British dementia experts. However, as the causes of dementia are still not fully understood, there is no guarantee that this is a factor. The debate over town or country living however carries on.
Why choose country living?
Less than a quarter of the UK population live in a rural area, and the smaller population means that there is less traffic, air pollution as well as access to fast food and so on. Experts from the British Heart Foundation argue that “being in the country is better for you” when it comes to air pollution, as the cleaner air reduces the risk of lung damage and heart disease caused by excessive traffic. However, just being near a park or a greenspace in a town or city could help reduce the risk.
A previously published government report found that health outcomes were less favourable in urban areas, with infant mortality rates being higher and life expectancy lower too. Being around nature can make you happier, but could there be some downsides to living in the country?
Why choose city living?
Whilst country living already offers cleaner air, those who live in the city are constantly working hard on initiatives to reduce traffic, waste, congestion and overall use of vehicles within urban areas. This means that over time, the risks will become reduced as communities work to establish less polluted living. City living of course also offers a much needed social aspect of living too. Older generations are more likely to live in rural areas, and isolation and loneliness can become a significant issue for their health. As they get older, individuals may become more reliant on others to get around to access their doctors, supermarkets etc – being unable to drive means relying on other people or public transport, which may not be available in abundance in rural areas.
Meanwhile, those who live in the country but commute to urban areas for work could find that the benefits of country living are counteracted by the time spent commuting, where being sat in a car for hours each day, not exercising and spending time in traffic could have an effect on health.
Improving your health wherever you live
Whether you live in the town or country, there are things you can do to ensure a healthier quality of life.
For country dwellers – It’s said that those in urban areas walk more to get to work, to the shops and so on – so why not make the most of where you live and get walking? The clean country air will help keep you feel energised and help ease any stress you may have. Make an effort to talk to friends or family on the phone or online, and meet people where you can to ease loneliness. If you find it difficult to meet people, Wave Length is a great charity to help those who feel isolated or lonely.
For urban dwellers – Counteract the stress of living in the city by getting in some exercise and exploring your area’s parks and greenspaces. These areas tend to be less polluted which can ease health risks caused by pollution, whilst also helping to improve your mood. Avoid the temptation of junk food sold by fast food vendors and make more meals from scratch – farmer’s markets and independent vendors are great places to pick up quality foods for healthier living.
Make the most of where you call home by doing things to keep yourself fit and healthy, it is where you make it your own after all!