Wow, Sydneysiders will be overjoyed to hear that we have recently been announced the second healthiest city in the world. Widely reported across Australian media, the Healthy Cities Lifestyle Report for 2021 supposedly analysed factors such as hours of sunshine, annual average hours worked and the amount of outdoor activities available in their grading of some 44 global cities.
Amsterdam took the top spot and bad luck Melbourne – bleak city came in well below Sydney at 11th on the list. Surprisingly the very hip New York came in at 42nd with Moscow and Mexico City bringing up the rear. So just who took time to collect the data and compile what was trumpeted as a fairly definitive list? Was it a project of the World Health Organisation or some branch of the United Nations? What most of the news outlets here failed to tell you was that the report was actually initiated by Lenstore, an online retailer of contact lenses based in the UK.
Just what their motivation was in undertaking the study I’m not sure, and let’s give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming it was purely academic. However, any report like this needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt and a big dose of cynicism. Have a look at their full index and you will see that some of the factors included the cost of a monthly gym membership, the price of bottled water and so called levels of happiness.
Just how you ascertain people’s level of happiness is a bit of a mystery and you would assume that would involve questioning thousands to get a reliable sample. Maybe starting with a vox pop in the Pitt Street Mall – “Excuse me sir, can you tell me how happy you are feeling today?” And the answer, “f&4@ off, I’m having a shit awful day.”
Then again you could pose the question at one of those big outdoor music festivals and given the chemical intake of many of the patrons, you might get an entirely different response. Maybe with the next Australian census looming in August that’s a question that needs to be included – “How would you rate your general level of happiness? (a) Exuberant (b) Extremely Content (c) So So (d) Down In The Dumps.”
Surprisingly the Healthy Cities Lifestyle Report chose to totally ignore the current pandemic, failing to award brownie points to those cities with the least number of COVID-19 cases. It seems the price of bottled water and the cost of a gym membership were greater indicators than the number of citizens fighting for their lives on a respirator.
Melbourne has been regularly nominated as the most liveable city in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit but it seems Sydney is a healthier place to reside, if you trust the Lenstore report. When it comes to COVID-19 cases, Amsterdam has a helluva lot more than Sydney so who wants to believe these click bait appraisals.
The internet is now littered with spurious lists where just about everything and anything is graded from one to 10 or more. The 10 best ways to toast a cheese sandwich or 40 great things to do in Dubbo after dark. Just who the arbiters are who devise these lists is often undisclosed but numerous news sites are more than happy to repeat their findings as gospel.
The only judgement I would make on the Lenstore list is that Moscow, in the current climate, deserves to be right at the bottom. Its prisons are overflowing with Navalny protestors, Putin has done a lousy job in combating COVID-19 and the price of butilirovannaya voda (i.e. bottled water) – outrageous!