Sprawl is good for you

Sprawl is good for you

: A new “study” argues that suburban sprawl is bad for your health.

What a hock of hooey. It appears to be another of those coincidence-of-statistics “studies” that confirm somebody’s desires for the truth.

They found that people in the suburbs complain of more ailments. Could it be that people in the suburbs are more likely to have health insurance and they can afford to complain of ailments more often? Could it be that people in the suburbs have jobs that are stressful and, in fact, their homes are what make life better for them? Could it be that the jobs and competition in bigger, more crowded, more central locations are frequently more stressful than the jobs in out-of-the-way places? Could it be that people in the suburbs grow old out there and get sick more often than young yuppies? I think it could.

Here’s the Washington Post report on the “study.”

The real problem I have with this is that “sprawl” is such a dirty word. Hey, yesterday’s “sprawl” is today’s “preservation” project. The house you’re living in was sprawl when it’s built but now that you’re in it, it’s not sprawl — but the new one going in next door is.

My town is wasting millions buying land by the Interstate that no one should want to build on — and if they wanted to build, who’d care? — in the name of “open space” and its moral opposite, “sprawl.” It’s a waste of good land and good money and doesn’t really serve the interests against “sprawl” because it only forces people to move farther and farther away from their jobs and communities.

“Sprawl” is a boogyman for the age.

  • I’ve lived in NYC and Atlanta. NYC lends itself to walking everywhere. Atlanta forces you to drive everywhere.
    Now I drive 100 miles everyday in stop-and-go traffic. More stress, less exercise; of course it’s less healthy.

  • Not your most thoughtful post. The health study may or may not be bogus, and “sprawl” may be an overused and sometimes misused term, but the larger issue of land use and planning is real.

  • AnotherScott

    Why would you want to preserve land by the Interstate? It has an Interstate running through it! That’s the place that should be developed! What kind of view do you need when you’re driving 80mph.

  • praktike

    Dumbest post ever.
    Driving everywhere makes one less likely to get exercise. Not getting exercise makes you fat. Being fat makes you unhealthy.

  • Also – people in the suburbs also tend to be older than city dwellers. Age is more closely correlated to health problems than any other factor.

  • Oops, just realized you already mentioned that in your post. Just ignore me – this is my 12th consecutive hour at the office

  • Jeff Winkler

    Suburban roads are designed for cars, not people.
    Driving everwhere == less exercise == health problems.

  • Funny, I take the bus and walk everywhere and I feel like crap most of the time.

  • Oh yeah — and I’m also gaining weight, though I haven’t changed my eating habits at all. It isn’t all muscle weight either, unless I’m growing muscles in my ass. But hey, public transportation is the healthy alternative. Yeah, in some hermetically sealed community where the buses aren’t germ-carrier systems.

  • steve

    A recent study of the last 25 years notes a statistical correlation between the overall decline in cigarette smoking by Americans and the steady increase of global temperatures.

  • ronbo

    Jeff —
    Good post. I live in Morris County, not too far from you.
    I moved here (from Hoboken) for the schools and the space. I love it. My wife is in the real estate business in Hudson County, where space really is at a premium.
    “Sprawl” out here? Feh! People who want to live within sight, sound and smell of the Interstate are welcome to, IMO.

  • Len

    Seems like no one talks about that fact that correlation does not equal causation, it’s one of the first things I remember learning in college, it was a good lesson. Most of these studies that come out talk about a correlation but not causation. There’s a big difference.
    For a review take a look at http://stat.tamu.edu/stat30x/notes/node42.html