Can Moving to a Less Impoverished Neighborhood Make You Healthier?

A new study finds income segregation experienced in high-poverty areas is detrimental to personal wellness.

Recent study finds that moving to lower poverty areas can improve mental and physical health.
Does the key to health and well-being lie simply in moving? (Photo: Denis Tangney Jr./Getty Images)
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

A study recently published in Science found that adults who moved to lower poverty areas experienced long-term mental and physical benefits, including a reported increase in happiness. These results happened even for those who made the move without experiencing an increase in their own income levels.

According to University of Chicago researchers and their associates, families who simply moved to lower poverty areas, but whose income level remained unchanged, experienced the kind of benefits that they would have if they’d entered a higher tax bracket. 

For instance, if a family moved to an area with a poverty rate 13 percentage points lower, they experienced an increase in happiness equivalent to a $13,000 raise in family income.

The study focused on data from over four thousand families involved in the Moving to Opportunity program. An experimental program from the 1990s, random families living in public housing projects nationwide were offered the chance to move to lower poverty neighborhoods. The article in Science traces the outcomes of the adults from that program 10-15 years later.

According to the University of Chicago website, the findings determined that neighborhood environments have far-reaching implications on personal wellness. Specifically, the study defines income segregation―not racial segregation as previously believed― as being “the key feature of distressed urban neighborhoods that seems to matter most for well-being.”

Do you agree that by simply moving to a less impoverished area―even if nothing else in your life changed―that it would make you a happier and healthier person? Let us know in the Comments.

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