For decades, the prevailing wisdom has been that living in a city is bad for your health. Why would you choose to live in a crowded, noisy urban environment when you could live in the suburbs where there’s much more space? Although it’s true that the suburban lifestyle is an attractive way of living for some, it may not be as good for you as you have been led to believe.

A recent study by the University of Hong Kong and the University of Oxford shows that rates of obesity are lower where population is denser, i.e. cities. In addition, people who live in cities socialize more often than suburban folk, which is part of an overall healthy lifestyle. The higher levels of socializing in cities can also have significant mental health benefits.

City people tend to walk more due to the proximity of places in cities. Most of your daily destinations are in walking distance in a city, something that is much different in the suburbs. The increase in physical activity leads to lower obesity levels in cities and higher in the suburbs where urban sprawl forces people to drive everywhere.

The study concludes that living in urban areas isn’t as harmful as the consensus seems to believe. There are many reasons why the human race has chosen to live so close to one another throughout time, even as technology has made it possible to live very far apart. For more details about how living in a city can mean a healthier lifestyle, see the charts on the accompanying guide!