Believe it or not, where you live affects your health. Whether you hang your hat in an urban high-rise, a farmhouse on the plains, or a suburban raised ranch somewhere between the two, your hometown plays a big part in your overall well-being. For better or worse, a variety of factors–from air quality and open space to health services and crime–affect you personally.
Current Health set out to identify the 10 healthiest cities for teens in the United States. We compared statistics from 20 medium- and large-sized cities in three general categories: environmental factors, health services, and lifestyle choices (see “And the Winners Are …”). The findings may surprise you.
Behind the Rankings
First CH examined the physical environment of each locale. If your city ranked high, you can breathe easy. None of our top choices were on the American Lung Association’s 2004 list of most polluted cities. Los Angeles leads the country in both smog and particle pollution-microscopic emissions from power plants, diesel engines, and other sources. Honolulu rates the cleanest air. However, each of our top 10 cities has acceptable or improving air quality, according to studies by the Foundation for Clean Air Progress.
Eight of our 10 cities have been singled out as great places either to walk (says the American Podiatric Medical Association) or run (according to Runner’s World magazine). New York, Honolulu, and San Francisco made both lists. “New York is a place where you walk around a lot,” agrees 15-year-old resident Charles. “Nobody in their right mind has a car in New York.” And San Francisco’s topography makes for scenic strolls. “There are so many hills!” says 18-year-old resident Jessica. “We all do a lot of walking. Since I’ve gotten my driver’s license, I do less–although I did go to Golden Gate Park to do pedal-boating recently,” she adds.
Local communities manage environmental issues in different ways. Six of our locales made the grade as top U.S. “green cities,” according to the Green Guide Institute, an environmental news service. Green cities get a thumbs-up for using renewable energy sources such as solar power and for employing building practices that produce less waste and preserve the environment.