Are cities bad for our health?


With the new year come the inevitable healthy-oriented resolutions: go to the gym more, eat healthier, eat less sugar, fat and/or carbs, and….move out of the city? The Boston Globe takes an interesting look at the impact cities have on our brains and it doesn't look good. Cities may be full of energy, but they also take a toll on basic mental processes. Writer Jonah Lehrer notes: "After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it's long been recognized that city life is exhausting—that's why Picasso left Paris—this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so."

One problem? A lack of nature. Another? The convenience of amenities. Could cities also be making us fatter? Lehrer writes: "Related research has demonstrated that increased 'cognitive load' — like the mental demands of a city — makes people more likely to choose chocolate cake instead of fruit salad, or indulge in an unhealthy snack. this is the one-two punch of city life: It subverts our ability to resist temptation even as it surrounds us with it, from fast-food outlets to fancy clothing stores. The end result is too many calories and too much credit card debt."
Despite this, cities continue to grow. So how to counteract these negative effects of urban dwelling while still preserving the unique attributes of city life? It seems this, too, is a personal choice, at least according to Lehrer, who notes it may be as simple as resolving to seeking out more natural settings more often. With this in mind, it seems a unique opportunity for the A&D community. How can it, as a whole, work together to assist this process? Increased daylighting and access to the outdoors are straightforward solutions increasing in use today, but how can the industry push this even further?

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