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The World’s Best Cities For Mental Wellbeing, According To Data Crunchers

Low pollution levels, robust social security structures and political stability helped Reykjavik, Bern and Helsinki top the ranking. The index was launched to ‘show what cities can achieve for their citizens’

It is a notoriously expensive city, with bleak weather aplenty, and unpredictable volcanoes grumbling nearby. Nonetheless, Reykjavik – Iceland’s diminutive capital – has topped a new index, which ranks the world’s best cities for mental wellbeing. 

Such analysis is, of course, a tricky business. The data crunchers behind the index used various metrics to inform their findings, including: crime levels, gender and minority equality, population density, air pollution, noise pollution, traffic congestion, unemployment rates, local purchasing power, social security structures, and the government’s response to the pandemic. 

More than 500 cities were assessed. Those without reliable data were removed, leaving just 100 cities, of which Reykjavik came out as the least stressful city in which to live. Bern in Switzerland and Helsinki, the Finnish capital, came second and third respectively. Liverpool was the only UK city to feature in the top 20 (no. 11); London was ranked a lowly 69. 

Data was crunched by VAAY, a German CBD and wellbeing brand. Its cofounder, Finn Age Hänsel, said the aim of the research was to “show what cities can achieve for their citizens through effective governance, robust environmental policies and well-resourced social welfare systems”. 

“The aim is not to single out the cities which may lag behind in any of these areas, but rather highlight those which are leading examples of what can be done to improve the wellbeing of their inhabitants,” he said. 

“We hope that the results of the study serve as a useful barometer for cities and citizens alike to reassess their environments and work together towards developing cities that are less stressful places to live.”

Reykjavik has been the subject of a number of articles for Positive News recently. This week we reported on the city’s pioneering trial of a four-day working week, which analysts described as an ‘overwhelming success’. In fact it was deemed so successful that most of Iceland is now working reduced hours. 

The city has also led the way in efforts to boost participatory democracy and cut substance abuse among teens. The nation as a whole, meanwhile, was last week named the world’s most peaceful country. It has also been held up as a beacon of progress when it comes to gender equality, and is a leader in the field of geothermal energy. 

The world’s 20 best cities for mental wellbeing, according to VAAY
• Reykjavik, Iceland 
• Bern, Switzerland
• Helsinki, Finland
• Wellington, New Zealand
• Melbourne, Australia
• Oslo, Norway
• Copenhagen, Denmark
• Innsbruck, Austria
• Hanover, Germany
• Graz, Austria
• Liverpool, UK
• Montreal, Canada
• Vienna, Austria
• Auckland, New Zealand
• Amsterdam, Netherlands
• Montevideo, Uruguay
• Zurich, Switzerland
• Cologne, Germany
• Sydney, Australia
• Stockholm, Sweden