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How city design impacts mental health

April 10, 2014
Image courtesy of Spacing

Image courtesy of Spacing

A recent article in Spacing magazine titled, “Designing Cities that Positively Impact Mental Health” describes how the urban landscape affects our well-being. The article promotes mixed-use communities: communities where public facilities, such as schools, workplaces, grocery stores, etc., are located close together. These communities enable residents to easily walk, bike or bus to get to and from different places.

Investing in public transit and mixed-use communities gives residents greater opportunities to be physically active, which evidence shows improves mood and enhances well-being. Also, residents may bump into each other along the way, creating an opportunity for social interaction.

Community hubs also provide an opportunity for residents to get together, increasing social ties and facilitating meaningful relationships. Strong communities provide individuals with social support as well as access to services and resources that promote resilience during stressful times.

Additionally, policies that support green spaces in neighbourhoods enhance residents’ well-being through increasing neighbourhood attractiveness and providing an opportunity for play, relaxation and recreation.

Some aspects described in the article are also evident in provincial planning policies. For example, Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing issues Provincial Police Statements regularly which provides clear policy direction on land-use planning to promote strong communities, a strong economy, and a clean and healthy environment. Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement 2014 was released earlier this year and includes principles which could lead to gains in residents’ mental health through prescribed urban design principles.

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