by Zeynep Cermen
ISTANBUL, March 16 (Xinhua) -- The internal flow of population in Turkey has been changing direction over the past three years with more moving from cities to towns for a better life, the Turkish Statistical Institute reported lately.
In 2018, a record number of Turks moved from the country's biggest city of Istanbul and the capital Ankara to mostly coastal towns along the Aegean and Mediterranean shores, the figures released by the agency have showed.
A total of 595,803 people quit Istanbul last year, up from 422,559 in 2017, while 385,482 newcomers settled in the metropolis.
Istanbul's population, meanwhile, has continued to increase to 15 million as the fertility rate kept growing.
Ankara, the country's second largest city, saw 221,747 people move out in 2018, up from 156,058 in 2017.
According to the institute, Antalya, Izmir, Mugla and Balikesir are among the largest recipients of the migrants.
For Metin Corabatir, head of the Asylum and Migration Research Center, life in big cities like Istanbul and Ankara, is expensive with high rents, costly transportation, healthcare and education.
"And also, some environmental issues like pollution, lack of green space and massive urbanization have been forcing people to reconsider where they live," he told Xinhua.
The retirees increasingly prefer to live in small towns with less stress and better climate conditions and adequate health care service, he said.
Halil Arif Nurdan, 61, moved with his wife from Istanbul to Ayvalik, a town on the Aegean coast, in 2015.
"I finally realized that Istanbul became incredibly chaotic, crowded and stressful," recalled Nurdan. "I left home for work at five o'clock in the morning so as not to get stuck in traffic on the bridge which connects the two sides of the city."
High cost of living in the megacity was another burden for Nurdan.
"Now, we own a house with a green garden in Ayvalik, away from all the chaos in Istanbul," he said.
In the view of Corabatir, shrinking job opportunities in Istanbul due to a flagging economy have contributed as well to the exodus.
"Istanbul is the center of the country's economy, but due to the latest economic developments, the city is now offering fewer jobs, forcing people to think of returning to their hometowns," he said.
Gamze Coskun, a 52-year-old painter, moved to Izmir from Ankara two years ago.
"Life is easier in Izmir compared with Ankara," she said, describing Izmir residents as "more relaxed" and "more polite."
According to the painter, Izmir has been drawing a large number of migrants with its attractive seaside villages, mostly from Istanbul and Ankara.
"As a result, the flow of traffic has worsened a lot, rents are getting higher and almost matching the prices in Istanbul," she said.
"I am not sure whether the infrastructure would be able to accommodate so many people if the migration to the city and its coastal towns continues at this pace," she added.
In 2018, a total of 130,092 Turks moved to Izmir, the country's third largest city, up from 127,394 in 2017, according to the data.