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The Effect of Urban Designs on Our Well-being

Have you ever noticed how you feel when you’re taking a vacation in the outskirts? Have you wondered why most people feel at peace when the atmosphere is comfortable and all basic facilities are readily available?

Well, if you haven’t, try being more observant the next time you’re out of the city and in a small town. It may not be that obvious, but housing designs have an intimate connection to our mental health and wellbeing. 

Mihály Köles/Unsplash | Housing designs and conditions have a huge impact on the mental and physical health of residents

Researchers have discovered that houses that are designed poorly can increase the risk of injury, isolation, and stress for people with disabilities and older people.

Additionally, ultra-luxurious and excessively advanced housing can induce stress. Similarly, housing that’s either too hot or too cold, or is exposed to indoor air pollution, can cause respiratory and cardiometabolic issues. What’s more, crowded housing or housing with a lack of proper water supply can spread infectious diseases.

Let’s try to understand where this study originated from and what kind of setting has a negative impact on us. This way we can be more aware and better prepared to take care of ourselves.

The history behind the study

The link between housing designs and health trace way back to the 19th-century public health movements, such as those of the Health of Towers Association in the 1840s, and the Model Bye-Laws that were issued in the 1870s.

During that time, the main causes of death were diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid and cholera, which were extremely infectious. The risk of an infection spread in crowded housing designs is what made public health workers observe and deduce that the right amount of lighting, ventilation, and sanitization is crucial. 


Bekky Bekks/Unsplash | Public health workers observe and claim that the right amount of lighting, ventilation, and sanitization is crucial to maintaining good health among the population of an area

Following this observation, streets started being designed with a minimum amount of distance required to be maintained between the buildings. Each habited room was required to have a window at least one-tenth of the floor area. Keeping the concerns of those times in today’s perspective, with the current pandemic, these issues have come to light once again.

Thus, it’s of utmost importance that urban housing designs provide resilience to infectious diseases as opposed to achieving any other purpose. Design experts say a variety of urban layouts (like the ones listed below) could unknowingly be causing damage to our mental health. 

Highly car-dependent

Living in places that are highly dependent on cars has a negative impact on people’s ability to exercise and it encourages a sedentary lifestyle.

This could easily lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. There must be some opportunity in one’s life to make use of active transport such as walking or cycling. Additionally, the effect of motor vehicles has a significant impact on us due to the high noise levels, intense street lighting, and air pollution. 


The feeling of security in one’s house plays an important role in an individual’s wellbeing. When one can’t keep up with the mortgage or if they’re facing a risk of eviction, it can take a huge toll on that person. Insecure housing is a complex topic and has some key root issues such as poverty and lack of support for affordable housing. 


Malkarium/Unsplash | The feeling of security in one’s house plays an important role in an individual’s wellbeing. Risk of eviction or injury due to poor construction can lead to a lot of stress for the residents

What now?

What we’ve seen so far is just a brief of the larger picture. But now that it has come to your attention, it’s up to you to consciously ensure that your surroundings don’t affect your mental health negatively. 

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