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The connection between Urban Design and Mental Health

The connection between Urban Design and Mental Health
June 24, 2020

There’s a very prevalent yet forgotten part of our mental health and that is our human built environment, our environment has just as much to do with our mental health as meditating and therapy.


What does urban design and mental health have to do with each other?

The two have been intertwined for as long as cities and human built environments began, your well being and feeling of safety heavily relates to the environment around you, your ability to make sense of the space you are in.

What are some indicator of a poorly designed urban environment?

Auto-centric, meaning almost all trips must but done with a private automobile. Meaning you’re incentivized to drive places that are more than 1 mile from your residence. There is little to no public spaces for people to congregate at. Walking to places you need to access in your daily life   is dangerous or impossible.

What are some of the negative effects of a poorly designed environment?

Feeling isolated due to limited transportation options, depression, anxiety, higher rates of stress, limited opportunities for employment, Larger wage gaps, more division. Not feeling safe without being in a car. Air pollution. Reduced ability to exercise as part of your daily routine. E.g. Going for a walk and feeling safe while doing so.

What makes a well designed urban environment?

Make spaces more interesting to people, have safe public places where people can react to their environment on a street level, lots of nature, e.g. street trees. Increasing safe walkability and bike-ability with protected lanes, bicycle parking, and convenient connections between different parts of the city to make walking and cycling more attractive than driving. This means space that you don’t have to make a special trip to, but space that you encounter in daily life—even green space that you see from your window.

What are some positive effects of a well designed urban environment?

Lower rates of depression and anxiety from isolation, more opportunities, reduced stress, having exercise be a daily part of life without having to change your daily routine, E.g. being able to walk or bike while running errands. Increased exposure to nature, meaning less air pollution.

What are some ways to help with having good urban design implemented in my city? 

Contact your local city hall and make sure you express your concerns about having good urban design practices throughout your city for you and generations to come. This is an opportunity for leaders such as mayors and other politicians to make it a policy. Physical health is becoming a standard policy, and mental health should be part of that policy, too.


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