Sorry Hallmark Movies, Big City Folk Are Living Better Lives
Hallmark movies love small towns like small towns love having only one stoplight. Whether it’s to fall in love, reconnect with family, help save a local business or all of the above, these cheesy tropes imply that moving to the boonies will fix everything that ails you (aside from your taste in entertainment).
And yet, according to a recent study, retreating from the big city to the little city is more like a melodrama suited for the Lifetime network.
After analyzing two large, long-term datasets that looked at the Big Five personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism), researchers found that those who live in small, rural towns tend to be more anxious, neurotic and depressed than big city types.
Part of the issue is that the isolation of small towns makes it much harder to access clinical resources to treat depression. Likewise, small-town folks were less open-minded, indicating that they may be more resistant to getting help even if it is around them.
“It will be critical to improve access to psychological services in remote areas and to identify how characteristics and values of rural communities can be leveraged to promote positive psychological health,” concluded study co-author Olivia Atherton, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Houston. “Given the far-reaching consequences of rural health disparities for individuals, families and communities, there is a pressing need to identify the psychological, social and structural mechanisms responsible for disparities and the ways in which to intervene upon those mechanisms to improve the health of rural Americans.”
So unlike Hallmark movies imply, returning home to your small town won’t solve anything — unless you happen to be the town therapist.