New York City has turned the corner from the bad old days of high crime rates and low life expectancy. Today New York’s much lower crime rate puts it among the safest large cities in the country, and its life expectancy has shot up to 80.6 years, significantly above the national average of 78.5 years. In 1990, New Yorkers could expect to live less than 73 years, which was three years less than the national average.
Experts attribute these changes to a number of causes. According to The Lancet, one is that New York was particularly hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, which today claims fewer lives at older ages thanks to antiretroviral therapies. Another is the public health initiatives that New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has implemented in the last few years, including raising taxes on cigarettes, banning trans fats and requiring chain restaurants to divulge the number of calories in each dish. His newest proposal is to limit the size of sugary drinks that certain outlets can sell.
One thing the analysts don’t mention is that New Yorkers walk — a lot. In Manhattan in particular, where free parking can be all but impossible to find and paid parking is incredibly expensive (as is, of course, real estate and just about everything else), people bicycle and walk rather than drive. Locals also take public transportation more often, which increases the amount of exercise people get compared to driving because it requires walking to and from subway stops, bus stops, or train stations.
I suspect that living in a fashion capital also has an effect on New Yorkers’ health, or at least their weight. As an advertising billboard for Manhattan Mini-Storage proclaims, “New Yorkers aren’t better than anyone else. We just dress like it.” Another of their ads observes, “NYC: Tolerant of your beliefs. Judgmental of your shoes.” The pressure to live up to the standards set by local fashionistas is an incentive to stay slim — perhaps in healthful, life-prolonging ways, like jogging and biking in the city’s many parks.
Whatever the cause, the Big Apple has gotten healthy.