Green spaces and colourful urban design elements may lead to higher levels of happiness, greater trust of strangers and environmental stewardship than locations without those amenities, a study has found.
The study, published in the journal Cities and Health, suggests that simple, inexpensive urban design interventions can increase well-being and social connections among city residents. "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, a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
"Something as simple as adding greenery to a concrete lane or painting a rainbow crosswalk could help to enrich urban public spaces," Negami said.
For the study, participants were taken on walking tours of Vancouver's West End neighbourhood and asked to complete a questionnaire via a smartphone application at six stops. This included a pair of laneways (one green, one concrete), crosswalks (one painted rainbow, one standard zebra), and a pair of greenspaces (one wild community garden and one manicured greenspace).
The addition of greenspace and place-making initiatives can help promote social connections for citizens, and help to mitigate social isolation, researchers said. They hope that these findings will ultimately 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," says Colin Ellard, a professor at the University of Waterloo.
"We have been able to show how such impact can be measured and what it can tell us about good, psychologically sustainable design," Ellard said.