Living in the suburbs may be a health hazard, according to a new report. People who live in the suburbs of metropolitan areas are more likely to report chronic health problems, such as hypertension, arthritis, headaches, and breathing ailments, than people who live in cities, which are more compact.
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After accounting for factors such as age, economic status, and race, researchers attributed the difference to the amount people walk. In more compact areas, people walk more; in areas where things are spread out, people drive more. Researchers estimate that an adult who lives in a sprawling area will have health characteristics similar to someone 4 years older who lives in a compact area.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 8,600 people in 38 metropolitan areas. Regions considered to have the most suburban sprawl included Atlanta, Ga.; Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Bridgeport-Danbury-Stamford, Conn. Regions with the least amount of sprawl included New York City, N.Y.; San Francisco, Calif.; Boston, Mass.; and Portland, Ore.
"Suburban Sprawl and Physical and Mental Health," Public Health, R. Sturm and D. Cohen, October 2004.