There are many factors that go into choosing a place to live.
If you have children, you might look at school districts.
If you're a swimmer, you might want someplace near the ocean.
But, it never dawned on me to consider my health when picking where to live.
The Harvard School of Public Health cites professor Francine Laden’s research on this topic, saying,
Do you live near a major road? A power plant? In a dense neighborhood, or in a suburb? Close to a supermarket with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables? Factors such as these can have an impact on your health.
I’ve heard strange things can impact my physical well-being — like how emotions are capable of causing physical pain — but I had no idea the place I call home could have equally as large of an effect.
This exclusive list goes into the health benefits and detractors of living in a variety of different places.
I’m so glad I know this now.
Scroll through to see what your living situation can reveal about your health.
1. High Altitudes
While most people know living at high altitudes can thin the blood, many do not know about the benefits of living so high up.
Robert Roach, director at the Altitude Research Center, says in the Chicago Tribune,
We’ve known since the 1920s [that] if you go to really high altitudes, you will lose weight.
In fact, Colorado, which sits at the highest elevation in all of America, has the lowest obesity rate in the country.
If you look at people who live at high altitudes around the world, incidents of most types of heart disease and strokes are much less.
2. The Suburbs
Living in the suburbs can bring with it many health advantages and disadvantages.
Dr. Gillian Booth says on CTV News,
It’s no secret that obesity rates have been climbing, and it’s partly because we’re sedentary.
She says that zoning laws in suburbs often discourage walking and exercising by putting retail services far from residential areas.
In these areas, people are twice as likely to drive and much less likely to walk or take transit.
This lack of walking can not only lead to obesity, but also to higher rates of diabetes as well.
Our health is also determined in part by access to social and economic opportunities, the quality of our schooling and the nature of our social interactions and relationships.
This means the better the suburb, the better the health benefits.
3. The Woods
It might seem like common sense, but spending time in nature can be really great for your health.
The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation writes that being surrounding by a forest “has real, quantifiable health benefits, both mental and physical.”
It also notes that forestry “boosts [the] immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, improves mood, increases ability to focus, accelerates recovery from surgery or illness, increases energy levels and improves sleep.”
4. Near The Highway
While living near a highway may be convenient, it is not necessarily the best for your health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
[A]pproximately 4 percent of the total US population live within 150 meters of a major highway, suggesting increased exposure to traffic-related air pollution and elevated risk for adverse health outcomes.
The largest effect is on lung function and breathing.
Dr. W. James Gauderman writes,
Otherwise-healthy children who were non-asthmatic and non-smokers also experienced a significant decrease in lung function from traffic pollution.
5. The Desert
There are many benefits to living in warm desert areas like the Southwest.
Being at a distance from larger cities can mean better air quality, and consistent access to sunlight can lead to a higher degree of positive mental health.
However, desert environments also come with their own risks.
Francine Laden, an associate professor of environmental epidemiology, found that more exposure to UV light can increase the likelihood of carcinoma.
Those who live in places like the Southwest are more likely to be at risk due to higher UV exposure.
6. A Farm
There are many health benefits to living on a farm.
This farm life affords you the chance to breathe much higher quality air, and it provides you with ample opportunity for exercise through manual labor.
However, one large health concern with farms are crop pesticides.
The Natural Resources Defense Council writes,
Today, with the pervasive use of highly toxic agricultural pesticides, growing up on, or even near, agricultural land means potentially being surrounded by a swirl of poisons.
Pesticides should be considered one of the top five environmental threats to children’s health.
7. The Big City
Living in a city can be a mixed bag, health-wise.
On the one hand, city-dwellers have easy access to many important health services and are much more prone to walking and physical activity.
However, mentally, urbanites may be suffering some negative effects.
The Guardian cites research that "people living in cities have a 21 percent increased risk of anxiety disorders and a 39 percent increased risk of mood disorders.”
In addition, io9 writes,
If you live in a city, you’re more likely to develop asthma, allergies and dry eyes.
8. By The Sea
In terms of health, one of the most overwhelmingly positive places to live is by the ocean.
Those living near the beach tend to be more physically active, and they have the benefit of breathing higher quality sea air.
Environmental psychologist, Mathew White, says that when they're near the beach, “it’s not going to be any great surprise to you that people relax.”
His studies have found moving to a coast “significantly improves people’s well-being,” particularly by lowering stress levels and encouraging physical activity.
9. Wide Open Spaces
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to living in a flat, wide-open portion of the world.
On the one hand, relaxation and a more laid-back approach to life may lead to lower stress levels.
However, NBC News reports that living in the Midwest can suggest you are much more likely to need a knee replacement than if you live elsewhere in the country.
These knee problems are the result of a much higher rate of obesity and a significant shortage of services and surgeries being performed on those who are extremely overweight.
Knowing the health benefits and risks of living in certain areas can be an important tool when choosing where to live.
Which of the locations above best describes where you live?
What did it reveal about your health?
Let us know in the comments.
This article was written by Phil Mutz for LittleThings.com.