Finally, a scientific explanation for the feeling of depression I get from suburban environments dominated by Applebee’s, OfficeMax and eight-lane thoroughfares.
According to a new study published in Urban Affairs Review, urban design can have a measurable effect on how people feel. Researchers at the University of West Virginia and the University of South Carolina Upstate examined levels of self-reported happiness in 10 major cities. They found that quality urban environments do indeed contribute to happiness among residents.
“People are often connected to quality places that are cultural and distinctive,” the authors wrote. “Not all neighborhoods are the same. Some are designed and built to foster or enable connections. Other are built to discourage them (e.g., a gated model) or devolve to become places that are antisocial because of crime or other negative behaviors.”
Kaid Benfield at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Switchboard blog expanded on the findings:
The study examined a number of questions directly related to the built environment, including the convenience of public transportation, the ease of access to shops, the presence of parks and sports facilities, the ease of access to cultural and entertainment facilities, and the presence of libraries. All were found to correlate significantly with happiness, with convenient public transportation and easy access to cultural and leisure facilities showing the strongest correlation.
The statistical analysis also included questions related to urban environmental quality apart from cities’ built form, and produced additional significant correlations. Among these, the perception of living in a beautiful city had the strongest correlation with happiness.
So I guess that wouldn’t include the ubiquitous big box retail centers that haunt my dreams …
Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington reports that Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has called to end the state’s six percent sales tax exemption for gasoline. The Austin Contrarian explains why the region’s plan to add two congestion-priced lanes to a local freeway is a win from an equity perspective. And the Active Transporation Alliance says congressional leaders have “declared war on transit” with HR 3854, a bill that would eliminate dedicated funding for public transportation.