It’s no secret that some of the world’s most ‘liveable’ cities have great parks and open spaces for residents to relax in and take a break from the tensions of urban living.
The importance of safe green spaces in cities should not be underestimated, especially for mental health.
Research shows that green spaces contribute to the mental well-being of urban residents. Natural environments or green spaces can “provide a calming atmosphere, evoke positive emotions and facilitate learning and alertness,” according to the American Psychiatric Association. And, as one might expect, taking a break in nature helps people recover from the mental strain that comes with work.
This is something for city planners to consider if they want to promote healthy urban living.
City design also contributes to mental health. Sprawling cities without public transport are unlikely to make people feel good. Research into mental health and urban living in Turino, Italy, indicates that key factors contributing to reduced risk of depression are accessibility to public transportation and a more dense urban structure, as opposed to sprawl. This is especially true for women and older people.
If city planners want to help improve mental well-being they need to think seriously about how to include safe, accessible parks and open spaces into the urban framework.
Brendon Bosworth is the editor at urbanafrica.net.
Photo: Seapoint promenade, Cape Town, South Africa. Brendon Bosworth.
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