Can cities promote happiness?

Ann Arbor as seen from the University of Michi...

Can humans be happy in cities? Ann Arbor as seen from the University of Michigan Stadium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A nice article from The Atlantic about how urban designers can do things to make living in the city a truly happier place to live:

I’ve been looking at some research reports, and confirming that some of the qualities associated with great urbanism – good public transit; easy access to cultural activities, recreation and shops; connectedness – are associated positively with human happiness. I first reported on a study reaching just those conclusions back in early February. Others found the study as well, concluding that residents of “beautiful, well-designed cities” are happier than those living in suburbs.

I’ve been following this topic for some time, because I believe that factors we generally think of as “subjective” can be every bit as important to fostering great, sustainable places as those that we can measure objectively. Of course, researchers being researchers, we try to measure them anyway (Seattle’s city council president on that city’s Happiness Initiative: “Measuring the subjective happiness or well-being levels of Seattle residents is an important tool”), and I suppose it was just a matter of time before someone came up with a ranking. Indeed, earlier this year The Daily Beast measured a number of factors they believed make people happy, concluding in a widely-publicized story that residents of Washington, D.C., were the happiest in America, followed by residents of Boulder, San Francisco, San Jose, and Ann Arbor.

[Some research] points out, however, that other research contradicts those conclusions, or at least muddies them significantly.

Still another study – this one involving a bit of self-selection, since its data were generated by use of an iPhone app – finds that none of the above is true, since nature is what really produces a good mood.

There are definitely positive elements to living the city: more social contact with others, social and cultural events, potential access to a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, and more. There is also the flip side to all of those positives.

Read the entire article, and write back with your own opinion: do you believe that people can be happier in the city?

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4 thoughts on “Can cities promote happiness?

  1. I totally agree with that but I also people can be equally happy when they live on the countryside. I guess one important factor is the age factor.

  2. You can certainly argue both sides. It may be overwhelming for someone from a small town to be thrown into a big city and expected to live there, but I can guarantee they appreciate specific details about it. And on the other hand someone from the city can see the beauty and peace that comes from rural or smaller towns.

    Even the smallest of towns have some form of center and expect it to have basic necessities. I think there has been a lot more wasted space in all cities and we gain from a closer connectivity no matter the actual size of the city.

    To say one has to be this or that is impossible. A well planned and connected place is the best solution regardless of one’s preference to a certain lifestyle and provides a higher quality of happiness in the end.

    • What makes a difference in large or small city, rural or urban is if there is space or center to tie the community together and place where children can play and people can enjoy it safely day or night. It might be harder to live in some large cities, states right now because of high gas prices and expenses.

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