What cities are the best for resident wellbeing?

From tracking exercise with the best fitness watch to feeling safe, wellbeing can mean a number of things. Our wellbeing index ranks cities based on a series of factors.

08 Oct 2019

With advanced health and fitness trackers like the Fitbit Versa 3 smartwatch allowing wearers to monitor everything from their step count and heart rate to the quality of their sleep, wellbeing has never been more of a priority. This said, ‘wellbeing’ can mean far more than keeping fit - it can refer to mental health and access to quality health care; exposure to clean air and nature; striking the perfect balance between earnings and the cost of living; or simply feeling happy and healthy.

To see how cities across the globe weigh up against each other in the wellbeing stakes, we created a wellbeing index that examines 77 major cities to reveal the best and worst places to live for optimal wellbeing. The index scores each city based on 15 different metrics (each marked out of 10) relating to day-to-day living, work and career opportunities, safety and eco-friendliness.

So, who takes the title for the city offering the best wellbeing? Where do the happiest residents live? And which city is the eco-friendliest? Here’s what we found out.

Reykjavik is the best city for wellbeing across the board

Ranking number one for overall wellness is Reykjavik. The Icelandic capital received a top score of 112.32 out of a potential 150 points, predominantly thanks to its excellent gender equality, LGBTQ+ acceptance and low traffic volume – all of which scored a perfect 10.

Proving Scandinavia is clearly doing something right, the Finnish capital of Helsinki comes in a close second, scoring 110.39 in total while Oslo, Norway ranks third with 109.63 points. Helsinki’s luscious green spaces and low CO2 emissions are its biggest draws, while Oslo’s welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ and number of green spaces are its key attributes.

At the other end of the scale, Cape Town ranked last out of the 77 cities – scoring just 57.13 points. According to our data, its key downfalls appear to be substandard healthcare and low rate of youth employment. Istanbul also sits low in the rankings, with just 61.15 points. This can be attributed to its poor gender equality and the heavy traffic throughout the city, which can put strain on the residents.

France boasts the best healthcare, but mental health is poor

Of the 77 cities ranked, both of France’s entries – Paris and Lyon – scored an excellent 10 for the quality of healthcare on offer. That said, both cities were distinctively below average for the mental health of inhabitants (each receiving just 2.71 points), suggesting the support needed to maintain good mental wellbeing isn’t as readily available as it could be. Bogota in Columbia, on the other hand, scored a perfect 10 for mental health in the city, as well as a good 8.76 for quality of healthcare.

San Francisco offers the best earning potential, but the cost of living is high

San Francisco offers the highest earning potential of anywhere else (scoring 10 for average monthly salary). What’s more, it scores excellently for its low youth unemployment rates (9.05) and city innovation (9.93), making it the ideal place to forge a career. That said, living costs are incredibly high (scoring just 3.8 for affordability), potentially outweighing salary potential.

Flip this around, and Bogota, Colombia scores an abysmal 0 for earning potential in the city, though their cost of living reflects this by being very favourable in relation to the other cities on the list.

Copenhagen arguably strikes the best financial balance, thanks to the average salary and living costs almost matching each other at a respective 4.24 and 4.32 points, which is a smaller margin than for any other city on the list.

Reykjavik wears the green crown

Once again leading the pack, Reykjavik is taking all the right steps to improve their eco footprint. Not only does it fare well for its congestion levels (10 points) and low CO2 emissions (7.81 points), but it’s also a great place to be for vegan food options (it’s second behind Edinburgh, UK, which scores a perfect 10 for the category).

Indonesia’s Jakarta, on the other hand, unfortunately doesn’t fare well when it comes to environmental factors. It scores low for traffic congestion (0.19 points), high CO2 emissions (3.03 points), poor green spaces (0.82 points) and a lack of vegan food options (0.6 points). 

How we created the index

We chose 15 different factors that can contribute to the overall wellbeing of the inhabitants of 77 major cities. To standardise our results and find the overall score, all 15 factors have been evenly ranked between 0-10. The lowest possible score is 0 and the highest possible score is 10. You can see the full data here.

The data was categorised into four key groups to offer insights into the specific area where each city excels or struggles in terms of wellness.

  • Day-to-day living - Combining the cost of living, childcare costs and average monthly salary, this category builds a picture of what the general experience of living in each country is like. Data was sourced from the Numbeo database.
  • It’s all business - To grasp what it’s like to work and forge a career in each city, factors comprising youth unemployment rates, city innovation and gender equality were assessed. Data in these areas was sourced from the IMF, the World Economic Forum and the Innovation Cities Program.
  • Safety first - In order to gauge how safe each city is, the general safety, quality of healthcare on offer, the level of happiness among residents, mental health of residents and LGBTQ+ acceptance within the city were measured. Data was sourced from the Numbeo database, the Social Progress Index, the Happy Planet Index, the World Health Organisation and Our World in Data.
  • Going green - Looking at factors including the availability of vegan-friendly food, the quality of green spaces, CO2 emissions and traffic levels, each city was evaluated on its eco-friendliness. Data was sourced from the Numbeo database and a traffic index released by a navigation technology brand.


Of course, while the environment, opportunities and access to care available in your city can have a significant impact on your wellbeing, your own actions are of key importance too. The Fitbit 3 Versa smartwatch makes it easier than ever for you to keep track of your own health and fitness, by monitoring vital stats including your heart rate, step count and calorie burn. What’s more, it tracks sleep patterns to help you identify what could potentially be disrupting your rest. So, even if your city isn’t as geared towards wellness as it could be, a few proactive actions prompted by your fitness watch can help you to strike a better work/life balance, get enough rest and release mood boosting endorphins in order to achieve optimal wellbeing.



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