Rich Tucker

Don’t look now, but you probably live in a bad neighborhood.

You might not have noticed since, if you live in the suburbs, you’re probably surrounded by good schools, low crime, friendly neighbors and tidy lawns.

But none of those things are important. Because no matter how safe you may feel, your neighborhood’s killing you.

Why? Because in many suburbs, basic services are not within walking distance. That’s supposedly stressing people out, and making them fat.

Suburban residents usually drive to work, drive to the store and drive to the bank. That may be one reason the number of miles we travel has doubled since 1963, according to Dr. Richard J. Jackson, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Johnson studies sprawl and, ironically, there’s a bit of it in his title, too.

Of course, there may also be less sinister explanations for why we spend so much time at the wheel.

After all, there are far more cars today than in 1963 -- in fact, a recent survey showed there are now more vehicles than licensed drivers. Motorists enjoy more miles of better-maintained roads than they did then. Plus, cars are simply better, safer and more fun to drive. Would you rather have a 1963 Chevy, or a 2004 Ford?

But Dr. Jackson is concerned about far more than the number of miles we drive. He says the number of prescriptions for antidepressants has increased, and he suggests that while suburbs were designed to make life more convenient, they may instead be sowing frustration. Other researchers consider the suburbs to be incubators for anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

Talk about depressing. This picture of stressed out parents and unhappy children sounds more like the movie “American Beauty” than the real world. In typical Hollywood fashion, that film depicted the drug dealer as the good guy, the Marine as the bad guy (it was, after all, made long before Sept. 11), the parents as clueless idiots, and the children (one of whom was indeed the drug dealer) as jaded people-of-the-world.

The movie purported to show how life in the suburbs really was, and of course won five Oscars, including Best Picture. But for those of us who actually reside in the suburbs, the picture was unrecognizable.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for