Can Where You Live Make You Healthier? -

Can Where You Live Make You Healthier?

Ever wonder how people in San Diego keep mentally and physically healthy while not breaking the bank? Well, I did, so I began to research if where we live can have positive or adverse effects on our physical health and overall life expectancy.

With many questions circulating in my mind, I assumed that cities with the most air pollution would be at the top of the bad areas list, but I was surprised to find much more detail.

It turns out that what deems a city as good or bad for overall health is measured by various factors. The typical life expectancy and health issues common for a community result from the landscape and business to the cultural and social experience.

Even if you’re just wondering how where you live compares with other cities, knowing what environmental elements may affect your health could save your life.

Location Affects More Than You Think

The status of your physical health is likely something on your mind even more than you realize. Staying healthy is typically regulated through diet, exercise, and routine doctor visits, but our location can significantly contribute to or hinder our lifestyle efforts.

External sociological and economic factors that directly influence an individual’s physical health throughout their lifetime are called social determinants of health (SDH). 

Through commonalities found between economic status and overall health statistics, public health experts know that there is a direct correlation between how accessible one’s location is to each SDH category and a community’s overall health. 

A few examples of locational influences that affect a community’s mental and physical health include:

  • Access to healthcare 
  • Altitude
  • Air pollutants
  • Community resources
  • Crime rates
  • Economic conditions
  • Education 
  • Fitness
  • Greenspace
  • Housing and living conditions
  • Soil and seasonal temperature fluctuations
  • Transportation
  • Quality of local food sources
  • Water pollutants

These categories define social determinants of health because each one depends on the other. Therefore, if there’s a lack of resources that can provide protection and progression in any of these categories, they will negatively affect the overall communal health.

If you look at what cities qualify as healthy, no city is perfect across the board. However, If you’re thinking about making the move to San Diego, you are likely to experience an upgrade in most areas of life.

Cities like San Diego that have idyllic weather, lots of green space, and access to fresh foods are commonly ranked high on city wellness scales. So it’s no strange fact that cities with fewer issues with social determinants of health are less prone to disease and mental illness.

How does where you live affect your quality of life?

Exercising and eating well are only about a quarter of the equation when it comes to overall wellness. Simply, the more access you have to parks and the quality resources you need, the better your mood and overall health typically are.

Although there are many technical ways you can measure a city’s overall happiness, you must consider your personal preferences. A list of great questions to ask yourself if you’re wondering how where you live or where you’re going could affect your quality of life is:

  • What is my favorite season or idyllic weather?
  • How safe is the area I’m living in or going to live in?
  • How do my ZIP code’s insurance rates compare to surrounding areas? 
  • How close is the nearest park, grocery store, or health food store?
  • What would my new daily commute be like?
  • Is the area conducive to my health needs?
  • How well do I fit into the current demographic?
  • Are there plenty of natural settings and serene outdoor spots for mental health boosting?

Location is used as a primary selling point in real estate because of convenience and the lifestyle surrounding happy communities. Of course, economic factors are always a primary concern regarding living, but the social factors truly are of equal importance. 

For example, suppose you are a part of a community that lives a specified lifestyle or that commonly has safety concerns such as religious groups, LGBTQIA+, and people with different citizenship statuses. In that case, you are likely to be happier where others in your community thrive. 

So even if you’re not looking to move, using these questions as a guide to gauge if your location is hindering your quality of life is worthwhile.  

Are cities healthier to live in?

Unfortunately, living next to a power plant or other industrialized factories is more likely to give you respiratory problems than it is to give you superpowers. 

Upon the first impression, most people are likely to assume that those who live in suburbs or the countryside will have a leg up on city-slickers, but research has found the opposite. To my surprise as well, it is common to find that healthy lifestyle trends and the overall communal mental health status frequently outweigh even the basic SDH.

In large cities, residents tend to hold a higher economic status, have access to various forms of transportation, and build stronger immune systems due to excessive exposure to germs. On the other hand, those who live in the countryside are more likely to have less stress, cleaner air, and access to fresh foods. 

The pros and cons are constantly shifting between the two lifestyles, and it would seem that the goal is for each to find ways to adapt more characteristics of the other. 

The common weaknesses in social determinants of health spots in cities tend to raise asthma, allergies, and depression rates. However, those who live within city-based communities experience lower rates of suicide, obesity, and health issues that come with being overweight.

Is it safe to live the high life in elevated cities?

Crisp mountain air even has its pros and cons, which might make you love or question those peaceful long weekend getaways. 

Data has shown that communities that live in high elevations, such as 2,500 meters or higher, experience cardiovascular diseases, lung and other specific types of cancers, and stroke at an increased rate. 

Living high doesn’t always come at a negative price, though, because top-of-the-hill living does have benefits in avoiding air pollutants like black carbon aerosols. Black carbon aerosols, or air soot, are any partially combusted particles caused by natural elements like fire, human waste, or industrial emissions. 

Adverse health effects from black carbon particles include respiratory and cardiovascular disease, heart problems, cancer, congenital disabilities, and premature death.

Another health risk in cities is the increased chance of traffic-related accidents and injuries. San Diego car insurance costs an average of $287 per month. Minimum liability requirements are lower than most states, but if you want to make sure your health and medical needs are met, you may need to opt for more comprehensive coverage.

Where is the best place to live?

Wouldn’t it be great if someone would simply give us the answer to our happiness?

The answers we’re all searching for may not come served on a silver platter, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready to bite into. Whatever you envision your future to be in the place that’s right for you, knowing how to balance both the pros and cons of where you live could save your mental health and physical well-being.

Utilizing resources such as the San Diego relocation guide will help you protect your health from extended weekends to cross-country moving.

About the Author: Danielle Beck-Hunter writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, Danielle is an insurance professional who has lived and worked in over 10 different cities across the country.