Received Mar 25; Accepted Aug
April 3, Absent those kinds of circumstances, we tend to take our neighborhoods for granted when it comes to health. There was a terrific lengthy report on place and health published in December by our friends at the Project for Public Spaces PPS and nicely described by my colleague Hazel Borys here.
I recommend that report, especially for its concise but excellent, issue-by-issue literature reviews. But I am returning to these matters today because there is compelling new research, from a variety of medical and other scientific sources, about what makes a neighborhood healthy.
And, while that research certainly reinforces what smart growth and urbanist advocates have long believed — that walkable places, in particular, make a significant contribution to human health — it also establishes strongly that, among neighborhood characteristics, walkability alone is not enough.
To be truly healthy, especially in cities, we also need nature in our communities. And that is something that, in my opinion, is not commanding enough time and energy from city builders and advocates.
Before I get into the new research on neighborhood walkability and nature, allow me to set some broader context: As a nation we Americans enjoy reasonably good health in many ways. But there is ample reason for concern. Last year US life expectancy declined for the second year in a row, the first multiyear decline since the early s.
Even young children are affected: Health risks in cities City living can alleviate some of these conditions but tends to exacerbate others. On the good side, rates of cardiovascular health are generally more favorable in cities than in rural areas.
More on that below.
But, on the bad side, city residents also encounter higher concentrations of air pollution and, perhaps as a result, their risk of respiratory disease may be greater. A study published last year of Canadian children living in both urban and rural areas, for example, found asthma prevalence to be generally higher in urban locations with some indication that asthma incidence tends to rise as we move along a rural-to-urban gradient.
This is consistent with previous research from the UK on adult asthma [link requires log-in]. Beyond asthma, scientific opinion on the deleterious effects of urban noise pollution is unequivocal. Cities can be stressful photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk, Creative Commons.
How much noise does it take to cause health problems? Cardiovascular effects begin to be seen after exposure to sounds at 65 decibels dBaccording to research I detail more fully in an earlier article.
Depending on the duration of exposure, hearing impairment can begin at around 85 dB, roughly equivalent to a noisy restaurant or heavy traffic. Noise levels on New York City subway platforms have been measured at dB, rising to dB inside the cars.
Cities and mental illness When it comes to mental illness, noise is only one of the factors that contribute to higher levels of disease among city dwellers. Cities can be exciting; they can strengthen social opportunities and economic productivity.
But, simply put, city living can also be stressful, and that part is not good for us. In a literature review conducted as part of a study published earlier this year and examining the effects of nature on moodthe authors summarized the state of the literature on the subject: Crucially, the observation of a dose-dependent effect provides support for a causal relationship, rather than a mere association, between urban living and risk for mental illness.
Further evidence for this causal relationship comes from the finding that the adverse impact of urban living can be reversible, with some categories of patients showing improved clinical outcomes after moving from urban to rural environments.examining the relationship between walkability and physical activity included items that assessed stairs and what relationships were found.
Measures of neighborhood walkability were present in studies; a minority (n=5,%) included items about stairs. No . Findings showed a positive relationship between neighborhood walkability and weekly minutes of older adults’ self-reported walking for transportation (B = ± ;p.
We find that cross-sectional analyses relating neighbourhood characteristics to BMI understate the strength of the relationship if they do not make statistical adjustments for the decision to live in a walkable neighbourhood. Standard cross-sectional estimation reveals no significant relationship between neighbourhood walkability and BMI.
Jun 05, · In "Associations Between Neighborhood Walkability and Incident and Ongoing Asthma in Children not to replace the relationship between patient 5/5(1).
Findings confirmed the relationship between walkable built environment features and walking. In particular, neighborhoods that had a higher State of Place™ Index also had higher rates of walking.
examining the relationship between walkability and physical activity included items that assessed stairs and what relationships were found. Measures of neighborhood walkability were present in studies; a minority (n=5,%) included items about stairs.
No information was obtained on the structural features of the stairs.