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Does a City’s Population Size Impact its Quality of Life?

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Open the large interactive version here comparing population size to quality of life in 200 cities worldwide

Open the large interactive version here comparing population size to quality of life in 200 cities worldwide

Does a City’s Population Size Impact its Quality of Life?

City living isn’t everyone’s cup of tea—the world’s most populous cities especially can be hectic, noisy, and busy.

Yet, despite the chaos of urban life, cities offer inhabitants a number of comforts and conveniences that are harder to find in smaller towns. That’s why more people are moving into urban areas around the world.

But do these conveniences reflect in people’s quality of lives?

According to research compiled by Elaine Siu, bigger doesn’t always mean better—at least when it comes to population size. This interactive visualization takes a deep dive into this dataset.

Measuring Quality of Life

Siu uses data from Numbeo’s 2022 Quality of Life Index to compare the quality of life in nearly 200 different cities around the world. For the purposes of this research, Siu used cities with metropolitan area populations of over 500,000.

The index measures quality of life using eight different metrics:

  • Cost of Living
  • Purchasing Power
  • Property Price to Income Ratio
  • Pollution
  • Traffic Commute Time
  • Safety
  • Healthcare
  • Climate

A majority of the metrics (six of the eight) seemed to correlate with population size, suggesting that the bigger a city’s population is, the lower its quality of life in those metrics.

Here’s a look at the full list of cities included in the study, along with their overall quality of life scores and their metro area populations:

CityQuality of Life IndexMetro Area Population
Adelaide, Australia212.141,355,522
The Hague (Den Haag), Netherlands204.88709,388
Perth, Australia198.372,092,649
Zurich, Switzerland198.141,419,621
Basel, Switzerland197.58566,503
Brisbane, Australia196.062,472,222
Charlotte, NC, United States194.312,701,046
Seattle, WA, United States194.34,018,762
Oklahoma City, OK, United States192.791,441,647
Austin, TX, United States192.562,352,426
Geneva, Switzerland192.15626,618
Quebec City, Canada192.11837,814
Columbus, OH, United States191.342,151,017
San Diego, CA, United States188.183,286,069
San Antonio, TX, United States188.142,601,788
Copenhagen, Denmark187.891,370,131
San Jose, CA, United States187.161,952,185
Edinburgh, United Kingdom185.01548,206
Sydney, Australia184.525,056,571
Melbourne, Australia183.065,150,766
Kansas City, MO, United States181.282,199,490
Albuquerque, NM, United States181.09918,259
Helsinki, Finland180.211,327,762
Vienna, Austria180.011,960,023
Glasgow, United Kingdom179.791,688,907
Gothenburg, Sweden179.12624,780
Dubai, United Arab Emirates178.962,964,382
Calgary, Canada178.341,611,475
Amsterdam, Netherlands178.171,165,898
Ottawa, Canada177.091,422,635
Portland, OR, United States176.922,511,612
Dallas, TX, United States175.717,759,615
Jacksonville, FL, United States175.251,637,666
Munich, Germany174.981,566,128
Boston, MA, United States174.524,899,932
Muscat, Oman174.071,622,620
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates173.131,539,830
Frankfurt, Germany173.06791,232
Vancouver, Canada172.662,631,690
Stuttgart, Germany172634,740
Rotterdam, Netherlands171.721,014,675
Milwaukee, WI, United States171.441,566,487
Edmonton, Canada171.231,518,921
Indianapolis, IN, United States171.22,126,804
Houston, TX, United States170.97,206,841
Valencia, Spain170.88836,857
Tucson, AZ, United States168.761,052,030
Denver, CO, United States167.362,972,566
Hamburg, Germany166.711,788,170
Vilnius, Lithuania165.74540,775
Oslo, Norway164.941,071,062
Nashville, TN, United States164.872,012,476
Bristol, United Kingdom164.74700,630
Atlanta, GA, United States163.996,144,050
Berlin, Germany163.743,570,750
Sacramento, CA, United States163.542,411,428
Washington, DC, United States162.886,356,434
Queretaro, Mexico162.061,389,302
Stockholm, Sweden161.541,679,050
Auckland, New Zealand1611,652,341
Cologne, Germany160.821,136,992
Baltimore, MD, United States160.362,838,327
Tokyo, Japan160.2737,274,000
Belfast, United Kingdom159.26638,717
Prague, Czech Republic158.871,318,085
San Francisco, CA, United States157.574,623,264
Zagreb, Croatia157.5684,254
Madrid, Spain157.336,713,557
Porto, Portugal157.261,320,347
Antwerp, Belgium155.31,052,622
Toronto, Canada155.026,312,974
Singapore, Singapore154.546,039,577
Philadelphia, PA, United States154.136,228,601
Montreal, Canada153.764,276,526
Doha, Qatar153.1651,799
Phoenix, AZ, United States151.954,946,145
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia150.727,538,200
Lisbon, Portugal150.092,986,162
Birmingham, United Kingdom149.322,645,598
Manama, Bahrain148.96688,558
Lyon, France148.341,747,575
Las Vegas, NV, United States148.172,292,476
Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel147.844,343,584
Manchester, United Kingdom147.472,770,434
Riga, Latvia145.54624,925
Bursa, Turkey145.272,054,748
Cape Town, South Africa145.054,800,954
Chicago, IL, United States144.819,509,934
Jeddah (Jiddah), Saudi Arabia144.44,780,740
Barcelona, Spain143.735,658,472
Brussels, Belgium143.122,109,631
Genoa, Italy142.82675,464
Coimbatore, India142.772,934,621
Hamilton, Canada142.74775,751
Bangalore, India141.6713,193,035
Dublin, Ireland140.931,255,963
Curitiba, Brazil140.073,770,919
Los Angeles, CA, United States139.7512,997,353
Nizhny Novgorod, Russia139.251,252,917
Durban, South Africa139.093,199,329
Islamabad, Pakistan1391,198,035
Bologna, Italy139811,707
Pune, India138.286,987,077
Taipei, Taiwan137.812,742,379
New York, NY, United States137.3219,768,458
Brasilia, Brazil135.444,803,877
Winnipeg, Canada133.69832,944
Pretoria, South Africa133.252,739,768
Warsaw, Poland133.211,794,532
Detroit, MI, United States133.054,365,205
Johannesburg, South Africa132.586,065,354
Izmir, Turkey131.523,056,149
Turin, Italy131.351,798,471
Lviv, Ukraine129.85721,383
Poznan, Poland129.38525,919
Wroclaw, Poland128.45642,497
Guadalajara, Mexico128.145,339,583
Chiang Mai, Thailand127.811,197,931
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates127.771,785,684
Budapest, Hungary127.231,775,207
Ankara, Turkey126.935,309,690
London, United Kingdom126.149,540,576
Monterrey, Mexico125.765,036,535
Campinas, Brazil125.753,384,564
Seoul, South Korea125.669,975,709
Lodz, Poland124666,032
Krakow (Cracow), Poland123.44769,595
Paris, France123.0211,142,303
Sofia, Bulgaria122.031,286,789
Medellin, Colombia121.784,067,758
Montevideo, Uruguay119.581,767,243
Yerevan, Armenia119.461,092,028
San Juan, Puerto Rico118.972,442,512
Florianopolis, Brazil118.921,277,547
Milan, Italy118.573,149,223
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia117.78,419,566
Bucharest, Romania117.581,785,294
Kuwait City, Kuwait116.643,238,523
Athens, Greece115.693,153,781
Quito, Ecuador115.331,928,296
Thessaloniki, Greece115.32813,793
San Jose, Costa Rica115.021,441,324
Chennai, India114.5111,503,293
Amman, Jordan114.372,209,584
Ahmedabad, India113.048,450,228
Hyderabad, India112.5310,534,418
Tbilisi, Georgia112.191,080,349
Panama City, Panama110.941,937,963
Rome, Italy109.984,297,877
Belgrade, Serbia109.821,405,192
Kharkiv, Ukraine109.511,423,343
Shenzhen, China109.1112,831,330
Baku, Azerbaijan109.12,401,108
Moscow, Russia108.3212,640,818
Minsk, Belarus107.792,048,574
Porto Alegre, Brazil107.744,185,488
Belo Horizonte, Brazil107.26,194,292
Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine106.883,010,209
Odessa (Odesa), Ukraine106.411,007,989
Lahore, Pakistan106.0113,541,764
Hong Kong, Hong Kong103.857,643,256
Santiago, Chile103.16,856,939
Skopje, North Macedonia101.02605,996
Kolkata, India99.3715,133,888
Buenos Aires, Argentina99.2315,369,919
Saint Petersburg, Russia97.915,535,556
Dnipro, Ukraine97.76946,574
Istanbul, Turkey96.1315,636,243
Guatemala City, Guatemala95.463,036,405
Yekaterinburg, Russia94.291,521,136
Hanoi, Vietnam93.755,067,352
Mumbai, India89.3920,961,472
Bogota, Colombia88.2711,344,312
Tirana, Albania88.09511,559
Mexico City, Mexico85.9422,085,140
Almaty, Kazakhstan84.531,958,135
Recife, Brazil83.224,220,458
Nairobi, Kenya81.755,118,844
Novosibirsk, Russia81.711,686,236
Cairo, Egypt81.621,750,020
Karachi, Pakistan79.9116,839,950
Bangkok, Thailand79.7410,899,698
Sao Paulo, Brazil78.5422,429,800
Kathmandu, Nepal78.081,521,057
Lima, Peru77.6711,044,607
Delhi, India77.2732,065,760
Shanghai, China76.6228,516,904
Jakarta, Indonesia74.1311,074,811
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil70.2813,634,274
Caracas, Venezuela69.322,956,813
Colombo, Sri Lanka66.85625,637
Beirut, Lebanon66.542,433,155
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam66.419,077,158
Beijing, China58.9621,333,332
Tehran, Iran56.289,381,546
Dhaka, Bangladesh56.1822,478,116
Lagos, Nigeria48.2215,387,639
Manila, Philippines46.0814,406,059

It’s worth noting that the negative correlation between the quality of life and population size only appeared in cities above the median population of 2.4 million people, indicating that the size of a city doesn’t appear to impact quality of life until a certain tipping point. Then, above the median, there’s a blatant downward trend.

However, Tokyo is an anomaly—its quality of life is much higher than it’s metropolitan population would predict.

Zooming in on Tokyo

Despite being the world’s largest urban area, Tokyo compares favorably compared to other top megacities across the index. When ranked among the top five megacities, it places in first for Purchasing Power, Safety, Traffic Commute Time, Cost of Living, Healthcare, and Pollution.

What’s so special about Tokyo? One major thing going for the Japanese city is its immaculate public transport system. The city’s transport is so efficient, the city’s rail service once issued a public apology after a train left the station 25 seconds earlier than its scheduled departure.

Another factor that makes Tokyo so livable is its relatively affordable housing, at least compared to other big cities like New York and Hong Kong. This is partly because of the city’s flexible land zoning system, which makes it relatively easy for developers to build housing and mix-use communities.

As our world becomes increasingly more urbanized, and cities around the world continue to increase in size, will they be able to emulate Tokyo’s growth? And if not, what other city design trends and innovations can cities utilize to raise quality of live?

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Demographics

Ranked: Countries Where Youth are the Most Unhappy, Relative to Older Generations

Conventional wisdom says that young adults (those below 30) tend to be the happiest demographic—but this is not true for these countries.

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Countries with the Biggest Happiness Gaps Between Generations

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” — Tom Bodett

Measuring happiness is tricky business, more so when taking into account how different regions, cultures, and faiths define it. Nevertheless, the World Happiness Report attempts to distill being happy into a single score out of 10, and then ranks countries by their average score.

We’ve visualized the high-level findings from the latest happiness report in this series of maps. However, the report also dives deeper into other significant trends in the data, such as a growing disparity in happiness between age groups within countries themselves.

In the chart above, we list countries by the biggest gaps in happiness ranks between young adults (<30) and older adults (60+). A higher number indicates a larger gap, and that the youth are far unhappier than their older counterparts.

Where are Youth Unhappier than Older Adults?

Mauritius ranks first on this list, with a massive 57 place gap between older adult and youth happiness. The 1.26 million-inhabited island nation briefly reached high income status in 2020, but the pandemic hit hard, hurting its key tourism sector, and affecting jobs.

The country’s youth unemployment rate spiked to close to 25% that year, but has since been on the decline. Like residents on many similarly-populated islands, the younger demographic often moves abroad in search of more opportunities.

RankCountryYouth Happiness RankOlder Adult
Happiness Rank
Happiness Gap
1🇲🇺 Mauritius852857
2🇺🇸 U.S.621052
3🇨🇦 Canada58850
4🇺🇿 Uzbekistan712249
5🇨🇳 China793049
6🇯🇵 Japan733637
7🇲🇳 Mongolia865333
8🇩🇿 Algeria936231
9🇱🇾 Libya805030
10🇸🇬 Singapore542628
11🇰🇿 Kazakhstan694227
12🇵🇭 Philippines704327
13🇱🇦 Laos1047727
14🇩🇪 Germany472126
15🇪🇸 Spain552926
16🇲🇹 Malta573126
17🇧🇭 Bahrain775126
18🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan815526
19🇲🇷 Mauritania1199326
20🇹🇩 Chad1209426

Conventional wisdom says, and data somewhat correlates, that young adults (those below 30) tend to be the happiest demographic. Happiness then decreases through middle age and starts increasing around 60. However, the above countries are digressing from the pattern, with older generations being much happier than young adults.

That older generations are happier, by itself, is not a bad thing. However, that younger adults are so much unhappier in the same country can point to several unique stresses that those aged below 30 are facing.

For example, in the U.S. and Canada—both near the top of this list—many young adults feel like they have been priced out of owning a home: a once key metric of success.

Climate anxieties are also high, with worries about the future of the world they’ll inhabit. Finally, persistent economic inequities are also weighing on the younger generation, with many in that cohort feeling like they will never be able to afford to retire.

All of this comes alongside a rising loneliness epidemic, where those aged 18–25 report much higher rates of loneliness than the general population.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The World Happiness Report which leverages data from the Gallup World Poll.

Methodology: A nationally representative group of approximately 1,000 people per country are asked to evaluate their life on a scale of 0–10. Scores are averaged across generations per country over three years. Countries are ranked by their scores out of 10.

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