Living longer and living well in ‘the best city in the world’

the Scott Monument, a tall rocket shaped memorial, is shrouded by trees and bushes and is pictured against blue skies

Recently crowned the best city in the world by Time Out magazine, Edinburgh’s reputation as a great place to live, work, invest in and visit remains well intact. 

That’s according to the 16th annual Edinburgh by Numbers report, published today (Wednesday 26 April). It reveals that residents’ lives are not only enriched by a vibrant cultural scene and more top-rated parks than any other comparable UK city – but on average Edinburgh people can expect to live longer, healthier lives.

Highlighting the city’s economic resilience, the findings also reveal that it’s not just residents who are in good health. Edinburgh has recorded the strongest local business survival rates and above average wages, retaining its position as the UK’s most economically productive city outside of London. Plus, all signs point to a post-pandemic rebound – with Edinburgh by Numbers demonstrating a bounce back in airport passenger numbers.

In summary, the stats reveal that:  

  • Edinburgh has the highest life expectancy of the UK’s 8 major cities
  • And the highest proportion of life spent in good health (80%) 
  • Boasts the most ‘green flag’ parks (35), twice as many as runner up Birmingham 
  • With a greater number of ultra-low emission vehicles compared to elsewhere in Scotland (2.32% of vehicles) 
  • More Michelin starred restaurants than any comparable city 
  • And audiences eager to return to the city’s top rated visitor attractions and festivals  
  • Strong recovery for the airport, with 11.3m passengers in 2022 vs 3m in 2021
  • The highest GVA per capita, the sign of a healthy economy
  • With above average wages and big decline in unemployment, down 50% in a decade 
  • A highly educated workforce, with more people working at degree level or above 
  • One of the highest student populations, behind Manchester and Bristol 
  • Plus a population increase in the last decade of over 10% across all age groups, bucking national trends 
  • While hard to believe, Edinburgh was also less rainy in 2022 than in the 5 years previous. 

Council Leader Cammy Day said: 

Edinburgh by Numbers is one of our most well-loved and well used pieces of research, providing a handy resource for everyone from school pupils to professors. This latest edition doesn’t disappoint and provides yet another unique overview of life in Scotland’s capital.

It may be small but not many capital cities can boast the unique blend of greenspaces, beaches or indeed ancient volcanoes Edinburgh can – not to mention the most famous festivals on the planet. It’s no surprise, then, that Edinburgh is often cited as one of the most incredible places to live. But perhaps all of this culture and outdoor space is actually good for our wellbeing, too? With Edinburgh by Numbers revealing evidence of people living well and living longer compared to similar cities, plus good survival rates for local businesses, Edinburgh’s outlook is certainly healthy.

All of this shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially following the hardship of Covid. Thankfully, the latest Edinburgh by Numbers points to a great level of business resilience in our city and now the gradual and welcome return of tourism. The ‘Team Edinburgh’ approach to economic recovery involved over 60 organisations coming together to set out what was needed for the city to bounce back from the pandemic. Clearly, this dedicated work to build Edinburgh back after lockdown has been a success. 

While all of this good news is to be welcomed, however, there is a flip side to the reputation Edinburgh has coined. Our population has risen faster over the last decade than other cities and we're living longer, leading to increased demand for homes and some of the most expensive rents in Europe. Wages are higher than average, but so too are costs and many residents continue to struggle with the cost of living crisis. In just three years, we've seen a 191% rise in the number of people who are in work claiming Universal Credit.

For the council, Government and all city partners, it’s important that we use the findings of Edinburgh by Numbers and address these challenges. Future generations should be able to reap the benefits of ‘the best city in the world’ too. This involves planning for the future in line with our 2050 City Vision and projects like the tram to Newhaven, Granton’s regeneration and affordable housebuilding will be key to a more sustainable city, alongside our ambitious net zero carbon by 2030 goal.

Published: April 26th 2023