City living has been enjoying its fair share of praise lately. It has become the hip thing to do, despite the exorbitant cost of rent, large crowds, and heavy commute times. But all of those negatives can be overlooked if city living makes us happy, right? Well, as a new set of studies coming from sociologist Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn show, big city living may not be making us as happy as we hoped.
The studies found that those living outside of metropolitan areas reported higher levels of happiness than those living in central cities. On a scale of 1 to 4, those living outside of metropolitan areas averaged .05 points higher than those living in cities.
St. Louis, for example, was the unhappiest county in the country. The Missouri city has a density of 5,700 people per square mile, which was around 19 times the density of the happiest county and five times the density of two of the three happiest counties. The Bronx and Brooklyn, N.Y. (each area with a density over 30,000 people per square mile) rounded out the top three unhappiest counties.
The three happiest counties, on the other hand, were Douglas County, Colo., with a density of just 300 people per square mile; Shelby County, Tenn., with a density of 1,200 people per square mile; and Johnson County, Kan., with a density of 1,110 people per square mile.
In addition to being smaller, each of these counties was just outside of a larger city, giving residents the benefits of big cities without any of the negatives.
The second study found that happiness decreases significantly after a city breaches a population of 300,000 people, good news for anyone who likes city living, as this shows living in a smaller city can still provide plenty of happiness.