balcony girl

Does city living make people happier?

While not all people enjoy city living, living in urban environments helps to reduce per capita land consumption and transportation costs while also increasing economic opportunities, leading to indirect benefits for residents. As more people live in urban environments, it becomes increasingly important to understand how the built environment impacts mental health and happiness.

Todd Litman’s new report, Understanding Urban Mental Health Impacts and How to Create Saner, Happier Cities, explores the connection between city living, mental illness, and loneliness. It found that while city living may increase forms of psychosis, mood disorders, and drug addictions, it also tends to reduce dementia, alcohol abuse, and suicide rates. Interestingly, the report also found that urban living increases happiness for many groups, including the very poor and the alienated. And it tends to increase the mental health of the population by increasing economic, health, and fitness opportunities.

Litman found that, while there isn’t a lot of credible evidence that urban living increases overall unhappiness, there is research that most people are mentally better off by living in compact, mixed, walkable neighbourhoods. This finding suggests that better policies and design strategies can support healthy communities. Complete communities   (which incorporate a full range of transportation, housing, amusement, and economic activities within a single community) are a growing trend across Canada and the United States.

Key policy areas that impact mental health and happiness include social services, affordability, green space, independent mobility for all, and community safety. By developing open, inclusive, and accessible communities,city-builders and decision makers can help to create happier cities.

This post first appeared in TINAN 74. Subscribe to TINAN for the latest economic development news and resources.