A new study shows that inexpensive urban design interventions can increase well-being and social connections among city residents.
Researchers from the Urban Realities Lab at the University of Waterloo in Canada found that green spaces and colorful, community-driven urban design elements were associated with higher levels of happiness, greater trust of strangers, and greater environmental stewardship than locations without those amenities.
“The urban design interventions we studied are relatively simple and low-cost, but show great potential to improve individuals’ emotional and social lives,” said Hanna Negami, lead author and a Ph.D. candidate in cognitive neuroscience. “Something as simple as adding greenery to a concrete lane or painting a rainbow crosswalk could help to enrich urban public spaces.”
For the study, participants were taken on walking tours of Vancouver’s West End neighborhood and asked to complete a questionnaire via a smartphone application at six stops, including a pair of laneways (one green, one concrete), crosswalks (one painted rainbow, one standard zebra), and a pair of green spaces (one wild community garden and one manicured green space).
According to the researchers, the addition of green space and other initiatives can help promote social connections for citizens, as well as help mitigate social isolation. Researchers said they hope the findings will help improve the experiences of people living in cities.
“We know that the design of a city has direct, measurable, psychological impact on its citizens,” said Dr. Colin Ellard, a professor of psychology and director of the Urban Realities Lab. “We’ve been able to show how such impact can be measured and what it can tell us about good, psychologically sustainable design.”
The study was published in Cities and Health.
Source: University of Waterloo