The Top 10 Healthiest (And Unhealthiest) U.S. Cities

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Published: May 8, 2023 | By: Fortune Well


Ask anyone in real estate what matters most and chances are you’ll hear the following: “location, location, location.” As it turns out, the same can be said for your health. According to a recent report from WalletHub, San Francisco is the healthiest place to live in the United States while Brownsville, Texas, is the unhealthiest.

The report analyzed nearly 200 of the most populated U.S. cities across four key dimensions including health care, food, fitness, and green space. The four dimensions were evaluated using 43 relevant metrics across the dimensions, such as the number of mental health counselors and doctors per capita; healthy restaurants and farmer’s markets per capita; average cost of fitness-club membership; and quality of parks.

Laredo, Texas, had the lowest cost per doctor’s visit at $65.00, which is 3.6 times less expensive than in Juneau, which had the highest cost at $235.22. Meanwhile, Glendale, Ariz., has the lowest average monthly cost for a fitness club membership at $15.00, or 7.1 times less expensive than in Juneau, where membership is the highest at $106.88.

When it comes to choosing a city that is good for your health, Yilu Lin, Ph.D., MPH, a research assistant professor of health policy and management at Tulane University, points to accessibility of health care resources as the most important factors.

“The quality of health care facilities and the availability of medical professionals are important for maintaining health,” she says in a press release about the WalletHub report. “Environmental factors like air quality and climate are always a consideration before choosing a city. City infrastructure such as well-maintained sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, gyms, community centers, and sports clubs can also contribute to the decision.”

Alden Lai, Ph.D., MPH, an assistant professor of public health policy and management at New York University, encourages people to keep in mind their personal preferences when deciding on where to live.

“If you do not enjoy being outdoors, for example, it is counterproductive to be in a city where people love to hike. And do not limit these preferences to physical activity,” he says. “Health is also about nutrition, rest and sleep, psychological well-being, social connections, jobs, et cetera. So it is important to first know your own preferences across the spectrum, and then determine how easy it is to achieve them in the city you are considering.”

Just don’t expect your zip code to magically improve your health overnight. As Michael French, a practitioner in residence at the University of New Haven, says: “A list of the healthiest cities is a list of possibilities for health. One can be unhealthy in the healthiest places and vice versa.”

To embrace a healthy lifestyle no matter where you live, experts recommend a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. 

“A city needs to offer the opportunity to take care of yourself and have the facilities and practitioners that are necessary for preventative, chronic, and acute care,” says French. “Affordability is also a critical factor in determining how healthy you will be able to be in a city. Ensuring you can afford where you are living and have time for rest will reduce stress.” 

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