Understanding the Pursuit of Happiness in Ten Major Cities

Kevin M. Leyden, Abraham Goldberg and Philip Michelbach published “Understanding the Pursuit of Happiness in Ten Major Cities” online before print in Urban Affairs Review. The article explores the link between the conditions of cities, from public transportation to social connectedness, and the happiness of residents in New York, London, Paris, Stockholm, Toronto, Milan, Berlin, Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo.

Participants were asked to report their own happiness on a scale of 1 to 5, from not happy at all to very happy. They were then asked to agree or disagree with a variety of questions regarding their life in their city, including the following listed below.

• It is convenient to use public transportation (e.g., subways, trains, or
buses) in my city.
• I have easy access in my city to plenty of shops, supermarkets, and
department stores.
• There are many parks and sports facilities in my city.
• My city allows easy access to culture and leisure facilities such as
movie theaters, museums, and concert halls.
• There are a sufficient number of libraries in my city.
• Streets, sidewalks, and other public places are clean in my city.
• I feel safe walking around at night.
• Air pollution is a serious problem in my city.
• I feel safe from the danger of various accidents such as car accidents, fires, and building collapses.
• The price of living in my city is high.
• I feel safe when I drink publicly provided tap water.
• My city is a good place to rear and care for children.
• It is easy for children in my city to go to a good school.

The study concluded that the self-reported happiness of the participating city residents was related to their built environment and its maintenance. Based on this conclusion, the authors suggest that “planners, urban designers, transportation engineers, public health officials, and policy makers focus more on cities (and towns) and how their decisions might affect the well-being of residents.

Click here to learn more about the study’s findings.

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