Why the big city’ll kill ya: My New York article on stress

New York magazine just published an issue devoted to “stress and the city” — and for it, they asked me to write a piece on the latest scientific research into why cities can be such fist-clenching places to live. Here’s my personal favorite bit of research I stumbled upon:

In fact, just crossing New York City borders is enough to set your teeth on edge. In 1999, Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychology professor at the University of California, examined the national rates at which people die of heart attacks. In New York, he noticed, the rates are 55 percent higher than the national average. “It stands out like a red light on the map,” he says. Then Christenfeld examined the rates of heart attacks among visitors to New York. Amazingly, those numbers were also elevated—34 percent higher than normal. The reverse was also true—when New Yorkers travel to other parts of the country, their rates drop below the city’s norm by 20 percent.

Turns out your paranoid mother was right: The city really will kill you. “It’s incredible,” Christenfeld marvels. “Just by visiting New York, you pick up half of the stress effect of living there. And you can shed half of it by leaving.”

You can read the rest of the story online here — or, if you live in New York, pick up a print copy yourself and see the whole package!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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