The Mental & Physical Health Benefits and Shortcomings of Moving to a Smaller Metro

The latest RentCafe year-end report on the evolution of the rental market in 2021 revealed that renters are increasingly flocking to smaller, less crowded metros, where they have better access to outdoor amenities and nature. As we are dealing with the pandemic’s effects on our health, it was important to consider whether this trend favoring smaller metros is motivated, at least in part, by a need to be mindful and protect both our mental and physical health.

To this end, we asked professors and experts to talk to us about the benefits and the shortcomings of renting in a smaller metro. In their answers, they covered access to nature and the increase in physical activity—as some of the benefits of smaller metros—as well as some downsides, and the pandemic’s impact on people’s choice of housing location.

“We know from a wealth of research that living close to nature significantly boosts our mental and physical health. The mere presence of nature around us can be impactful, and opportunities for certain kinds of nature experiences are decreasing over time with urbanization, such that younger generations have less frequent and less varied nature exposure. Further, recent research shows that going beyond exposure, a larger impact comes through engaging in simple activities in nature, whether it is relaxing in a garden, watching birds, taking pictures of natural views, or noticing new blooms. This suggests that having the space to plant a backyard garden or having access to nature trails where you can take regular walks — perks that can come with living in a smaller metro — can be impactful for people’s health and wellbeing.”