In October, the LawnStarter blog listed its top ranked US cities for wellness, to mark World Mental Health Day. It took into consideration factors such as the number of therapists available, the highest rate of health insurance coverage, access to green spaces, sunshine, and exercise. We’ll take a look at their findings below, and we’ll also take a look at the Mindbody Wellness Index for 2022, which has a different set of metrics, but which also ranks American cities in terms of wellness. If you’re planning to relocate to the States, and if wellness is high on your personal agenda, then these rankings might prove helpful – focusing on what’s important to you may help you make better choices when it come to deciding where to live!
The LawnStarter ranking is based on over 33 metrics, organised into five categories: Mental Wellness and Access, Physical Wellness, Mindfulness and Social Wellness, Financial Wellness, and Environment.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the West coast – with its pleasant climate and emphasis on physical fitness – scored highly in the rankings. Top of the list, however, came Napierville in Illinois, followed by Pasadena, Seattle, Fremont and San Francisco. The survey points out that it’s indicative that the top slot is occupied by a satellite city. Napierville is adjacent to Chicago, for example, but has lower rates of characteristic urban problems, such as unemployment and poverty. It also has less anti-social behaviour, shorter working hours, and better weather. But it’s also worth noting that Napierville scored highly on Financial Wellness. This is a crucial factor, not only regarding mental health, but also physical health. Pasadena, for instance, has more than 556 therapists per 100,000 residents, and boasts more meditation classes than anywhere else in the USA.
Detroit, along with Cleveland and Kansas City, were at the bottom of the list. Limited access to mental health support is an issue in cities that appear low on the ranking, and in the latest research, 157 million Americans are estimated to live in an area with a shortage of mental health professionals. One in five Americans suffered from mental health issues in 2020, with 21 million suffering from clinical depression and 48 million from anxiety disorders. The National Suicide and Crisis Hotline received 23 million calls between 2005 and 2021.
If you’re intending to relocate to the US, finding a place to live in which wellness, both physical or mental, is prioritised, is obviously a good plan! Napierville has long been popular among Chicago-based expats as well as locals. It’s not particularly cheap (nowhere in ‘Chicago-land’ is cheap), but it has good schools, excellent parks and public facilities. However, some commentators say that lots of new developments can make it feel a little bit soulless. Pasadena, on the other hand, is often described as ‘beautiful’, with lovely architecture and a real sense of community. It also has a number of meet-up groups/language cafes for expats. The same goes for Seattle, which has a meet-up group specifically for British expats and Britophiles, who have regular social events at the various pubs across the Seattle region. The city does suffer from long working hours, however.
Washington DC came 58th on the list, with New York trailing behind in 77th place. In general, large East Coast centres fared worse on this wellness listing than the West Coast.
Mindbody Wellness Index
We also looked at the Mindbody Wellness Index, which ranks the 50 most populous U.S. cities from most healthy to least healthy. This list uses a slightly different set of metrics, looking at how much people exercise, alcohol and nicotine consumption, spiritual fulfilment and closeness to community. In 2022, Miami claimed the top spot, with residents spending more on wellness industries than any other city. They’re also the most likely to book an evening workout. Los Angeles comes next, with the residents who are most likely to book an outside workout – not so surprising given the lovely Californian climate. Spiritual fulfilment is high on the agenda here in health and body-conscious LA, as is exercise. San Diego comes next, with an emphasis on diet and exercise, and also on having fun – 70% of respondents told the survey that this was a priority for them. Atlanta in Georgia is 4th on the list but comes second to Miami when it comes to the levels of wellness spending.
Next comes Washington – occupying a very different position from our first listing, going to show that the different metrics used in these surveys are reflected in the rankings. In the Mindbody Wellness Index, intellectual stimulation is one of the indicators used, and in DC, this is high! San Francisco follows, although this city is lower on this particular ranking, due to the level of alcohol consumption. San Jose is next – third when it comes to wellness spending, and with a large number of non-smokers.
Down in Texas, Austin is ranked 8th, with a high percentage of residents who engage in lunchtime workouts. Seattle comes in at number 9. Good hydration (perhaps prompted by all that rainfall?) and a sense of community feature here, along with a propensity for exercise.
Finally, we have Raleigh in North Carolina, which has jumped up the rankings as a result of a lower consumption of alcohol, and the fact that 73% of residents work out at least once a week.
New York came 19th on this list, and at the bottom came Tulsa in Oklahoma, with Fresno and Indianapolis close behind (so California does not have it all its own way!). If you are planning to relocate to the USA, consider drawing up your own list of what’s important to you in wellness terms, and see which cities fit your bill.