Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Health Benefits of Living in the Country?

Is it healthier to live in the country or the city? This is the question that Nora Schultz addresses in her article published for The article is called "Country vs. city: Green spaces are better for you" and in it, the author makes the claim that living away from urban areas is, in general terms, healthier than living in them. In particular she claims:

"If people living in green areas are more likely to exercise, you might expect associated health benefits, like a more robust immune system and a strong heart. There is also the possibility that we are better able to relax in the countryside, which should bring its own physiological benefits."(Schultz 2009)

As seen in the quote above, Schultz's argument relies on two important facts: The first being that people in green areas exercise more than those in urban areas and the second is that living in the country leads to a more relaxed lifestyle.

I personally find this argument to be incomplete. Though the author's argument initially seems sound, if you look more in depth there seems to be some very obvious holes it in. The author provides solid evidence that people living in the country live a more active lifestyles, and that an active lifestyle has greater health benefits. The problem with this argument is that the author does not compare the diets of the two groups. When making an argument it is important to give a complete and precise set of necessary conditions; what does it mean to be healthy? General "health" is attained by living an active lifestyle and maintaining a balanced diet. The author does not discuss diet at all in her argument, this seems odd, as it is an essential part of determining whether people should be considered healthy or not.

Is it where they're living or how they're raised?

People who are brought up in the country are often raised to have different morals than people in the city and they live their lives differently because of this. Is it possible that the way these people are brought up is why they live healthier lifestyles rather than the scenery that surrounds them? For example, suppose a child's family moved to the country because they did not like the fast paced lifestyle of their urban community. This child would be brought up to appreciate a slower paced and less stressful lifestyle. The lack of stress would directly affect the child's overall health and would have nothing to do with where he or she lives. Shultz does not address this issue which adds another hole in her argument.

Schultz gives various examples of studies that suggest that a natural surrounding is good for both physical and mental health. These studies have very interesting results, for example: "natural surroundings seem to lower the risk of death at any point in someone's life", "Depression fell from 32 cases per thousand, in the least green areas, to 24 cases per thousand in the most green areas" and "respiratory infections fell from 84 to 68 cases per 1000." (Schultz 2009) These statistics completely support the authors claims, but within the article there are some statistics used that seem to oppose them, The following is an example.

"Studies have found, for example, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they have a view of greenery outside their window (Science, vol 224, p 420). Even a few house plants or a well-tended garden may be of some benefit, with recent research finding that children are more resilient to stressful events if they have more greenery in and surrounding their houses (Environment and Behaviour, vol 35, p 311)."

The two studies that are referred to here are based on the effects on a green surrounding of people in urban areas. The problem with this is that these studies do not have to do with the health effects of living in the country but rather the effects of exposure to nature while in an urban environment and therefore these claims do not support the author's argument. These two studies actually contradict her argument, as they state that nature can be brought to the city and have the same effects as if it were in the country.

Schultz's article attempts to prove that living in a country setting is healthier than living in a city. Her argument, though strong at times is presented in a way that makes it hard for the reader to be convinced of the point that she is trying to get across. Some of the studies used to support her argument do so well but the article leaves out important information and in fact she refers to studies that appose her claims. Because of these downfalls, I personally find it hard to recognize this as a reliable article without reading further information.


Nora, Schultz. "Country vs City: Green Spaces Are Better for You - Environment - 09 November 2010 - New Scientist." Science News and Science Jobs from New Scientist - New Scientist. 10 Nov. 2010. Web. 09 Nov. 2010. .

Photograph of country scene. Digital image. Web. 10 Nov. 2010. .

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