Are Cities More Stressful To Live In Than The Suburbs? Research Explains How Urban Living Affects Your Stress Levels
As someone who was born and raised in the suburbs of central New Jersey, I had dreams of relocating to the heart of Manhattan for as long as I can remember.
But, fast-forward to the present day, and you'll find me comfortably sitting in my quiet and cozy north Jersey apartment.
It comes as no surprise that an atmosphere of trees, animals, and family homes has proven itself less stressful than the culture of city traffic and high-pressure jobs cramped in skyscraper-high buildings that can make anyone feel claustrophobic.
According to a new paper published in the Urban Forestry and Urban Greening journal, a team of scientists at the University of Bradford have successfully developed the first Tranquility Rating Prediction Tool (TRAPT) to determine how relaxing public spaces are based on “greening” measures such as trees, hedges, and other plants.
Professor Greg Watts told EurekAlert! Science News,
Currently, architects design urban environments to provide open spaces where people can relax. While it's guided by certain principles, it's not scientific. TRAPT provides a robust and tested measure of how relaxing an environment currently is, or could be once built.
As much as I love the idea of New York City, I can only take it in small does.
As much as I love the idea of New York City, I can only take the urban culture in small doses.
I realized city life wasn't as glamorous as HBO made it out to be, and while this is all, of course, my personal preference, there are some factual components that explain how a city could be a way more stressful atmosphere to live in.
Similarly to how certain colors like soft blues and pinks have a calming effect on your brain, the big buildings surrounding you in a city like New York play an important cognitive role in your stress levels.
In 2016, Realtor.com compared urban and suburban lifestyles and found that, while city listings boast glamorous entertainment and unlimited food options, suburban listings pointed out how attractive it was to be removed from traffic fumes and, instead, being surrounded by woodlands with close proximity to parks and trails.
City aesthetics are often too similar and dismal -- rows on rows of buildings that are, most often, of the same color palette and shape.
The solution, according to Professor Watts, is to encourage architects to switch it up:
By varying different factors -- the amount of greenery, or introducing noise attenuating barriers or quieter road surfaces for instance, planners can understand the impact of their decisions.
Aside from architecture, there are plenty of other city stressors that can take a huge toll on one's mental and physical health.
The admittedly filthy air of most cities can contribute to respiratory diseases, and the dense population facilitates the spread of viruses, while a generally fast-paced lifestyle increases stress levels.
According to Realtor.com, though many cities are making progress in cleaning up their air and adding more green space, "there's still a considerable gap with many suburbs."
Of course, suburban areas have their fair share of health risks, too, but the chances of inhaling taxi fumes walking down the sidewalk are undoubtedly greater in the highly congested trails of the city.
Animals can feel those negative effects, too.
Think of it this way: If you yourself get claustrophobic in that one-bedroom apartment on the umpteenth floor of a building that has no backyard, just imagine how it feels to be a four-legged creature born to run.
Unfortunately, if you're a pet person, city life doesn't do much for your dog.
Suburban homes are typically larger than urban homes (obviously), to the tune of about 300 square feet of a difference in space.
That means a whole lot more wiggle room for both you and your furry pal, and a lot less claustrophobia for everyone.
At the end of the day, home is where the heart is.
Home is also what determines how stressful your life can be.
Aesthetics, physical confinement, and the pollution of the atmosphere all play a role in both your mental and physical state.
While you may love the hustle and bustle of the city, you might want to think about residing in an area with just a little more greenery.