Suburban sprawl is bad for your health

Not only is suburban sprawl bad for the environment — encouraging car use and overly large, energy-inefficient homes, paving paradise to put up a parking lot, etc. — but it’s bad for the folks who live there as well, according to a new study to be published in the journal Public Health. Based on data from more than 8,600 Americans in 38 metropolitan areas, researchers found that the higher the level of sprawl, the more likely residents were to report ailments from arthritis to asthma to heart disease, even when factors like age and economic status were taken into consideration. The study is largely in line with previous studies that found reduced physical activity and increased obesity in the ‘burbs. “This is still a very new field of research, but every significant study that has come out so far has reached a similar conclusion,” said Don Chen of Smart Growth America [who, it so happens, is a member of Grist‘s board of directors, but we cite him here based solely on the merit of his comments — really]. Oddly, the study found no correlation between sprawl and mental-health issues, indicating that while suburbanites are getting fatter and sicker, they don’t seem very upset about it.