What’s the Skinny on Bend, Oregon?

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Just 20 minutes outside of Bend, on a sunny January day. Not bad, right?

Researchers have known for a long time that the environment can structure behavior. From studies of how buildings influence social interaction to observations on how climate influences mood, the impact of where you live can make a huge difference in the quality of your life.

Given the influence of environment, we thought we’d take a look at a specific town to see what factors make a town a happy, healthy place. And given that Bend, Oregon is constantly popping up on “Best Places to Live” lists, we thought we’d start there first.

What Makes Bend a Great Place to Live?

The Weather: Sunlight is important to mood. In fact, when some people don’t get enough sunlight, they can get a little depressed, and we’ve even given that a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder. The good news for residents of Bend is that the town experiences more sunny days per year than any other town in the state of Oregon. On average, Bend gets 158 clear, sunny days and 105 mostly sunny days.

Extreme Weather: The absence of extreme weather also impacts the quality of life in Bend. Extreme weather events have been shown to have an impact on mental health. Bend is insulated from tornadoes and is considered to be a low-risk area. Bend is also quite low on the earthquake index. Volcanoes appear to be Bend’s biggest risk, with the most recent eruptions in Oregon happening between 1000 and 3000 years ago. If only tornadoes were that infrequent…

Nature: Bend is known for it’s amazing outdoor opportunities. From bike paths to hiking trails, from nearby mountain lakes to the Deschutes River, and from Mount Bachelor to Phil’s Trails, there are many opportunities for mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, hiking, fly fishing, paddle boarding, camping, kayaking, and more. Recently there has been a growth in research tying nature-based activities to improved mental health. If that’s the case, Bend provides lots of opportunities.

Arts & Culture: A 2011 Norwegian study found that cultural activities are good for your health. And it turns out that Bend, despite its relatively small size, offers a varied assortment of opportunities. From The Tower Theater to the High Desert Museum, from Muse Women’s Conference to TedX Bend, from High Desert Chamber Music to Jazz at the Oxford, Bend offers a multiplicity of experiences. Bend even has its own film festival. And the Deschutes Public Library Foundation puts on an Author! Author! series every year, bringing award-winning authors like Dave Eggers, Anthony Doerr, and Katherine Boo to town.

Massage: There are a fair number of massage therapists in Bend. And they offer a variety of services, from spa-style massage for those seeking a little extra pampering to sports and therapeutic massage to treat the many athletes who live in town. Bend even has some massage schools if you’re interested in becoming licensed.

Considering a Move?

If you’re starting to think a move to Bend might be worth considering, you’re not alone. The town has grown considerably in the last few decades–from 14,000 in the early 80s to about 87,000 today.  Real estate in Bend is constantly changing and different parts of town definitely have unique characteristics and neighborhood “feels.” Right now average home prices are $375,000, having recouped pre-recession losses. Inventories are low for both rentals and homes to purchase, so if you’re interested in a move, check in with a local realtor.