Here's How Where You Live Could Affect Your Health

As every real estate agent can tell you that the number one factor affecting property prices really is "location, location, location." Yes, it really does make a difference to your quality of life whether you live two hours away from work or next door to a noisy airport or across the street from a stinky hog farm (as if there were any other kind). Not only does your home's location affect its value, it can also affect your body. In fact, some places on the planet are just so messed up that they can't support healthy human life.

Obviously, if you live near a nuclear test site, a farm where toxic chemicals are sprayed on crops, or a flammable river such as Cleveland's notorious Cuyahoga (via Smithsonian Magazine), you're not likely to be in the best of health. Still, the whole topic of how your environment affects your physical well-being is more complicated than just avoiding radioactive waste dumps. According to Francine Laden, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Harvard University, there are a number of factors that go into determining whether your habitat is a healthy one.

Air quality and outdoor access are just some health factors to take into consideration

While fresh air and sunshine is supposedly synonymous with healthy living, you can have too much of a good thing, particularly if you live in the Southwest. Professor Francine Laden and her Harvard research group found that a greater exposure to UV light, which you get under those wide-open southwestern skies, correlates to higher rates of squamous cell carcinoma. Other health problems, including diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, tend to occur more frequently in people living in high-traffic areas such as next to a highway.

The environment can also have a positive impact on your health, but it might not be what you'd expect. Some may imagine rural life to be healthier than city living, but research shows that many people, women in particular, are less likely to be obese if they live in urban areas. Why would this be? The theory is that, since cities tend to be more walkable, people are doing just that as opposed to spending half the day in their cars as they might in the suburbs or the country. Plus, as the Rural Health Information Hub indicates, access to high-quality healthcare is more difficult outside of a metropolitan area. 

It seems that no matter where you live, there are going to be pros and cons. You're not necessarily better off if you choose to be either a country mouse or a town one, but you should educate yourself on any health risks posed by any location.