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Yale Study Finds 12 Community Traits Linked To Well-Being

Mark Lennihan
A woman commutes by bicycle with her son riding in back in New York in January.

A new study from Yale University shows that where people live may affect their well-being.

Past studies have shown that things like high levels of education and higher income make for better quality of life, but that varies by region. Brita Roy, assistant professor of medicine at Yale, authored the study that compared well-being across counties.

“We looked at individual people’s well-being but mapped, based on where they live, over 70 different county characteristics and tried to tease out among all of those characteristics which were associated with higher well-being.”

Roy and her colleagues analyzed survey responses from 300,000 people across the U.S. and found that health and quality of life is associated with 12 characteristics about their county.

Places that had lower rates of divorce and child poverty reported a higher sense of well-being. Higher rates of people who bike to work did, too. Roy says these things are all related.

“The public transit folks can’t do it alone, and the schools can’t do it by themselves. Instead we need all these different groups to work together in order to improve well-being of everyone in that county.”

Roy says some factors surprised her, including that areas with larger African-American populations report higher well-being.

“It suggests that greater diversity improves well-being.”

The study, however, can’t answer a chicken and the egg question: does having these characteristics improve well-being or is it that places with higher rates of well-being just happen to have these characteristics in common? Roy says it’s worth testing.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.