Towns and cities are not necessarily places where people feel happy, healthy or have a sense of wellbeing. Indeed, it may be that urban life has become a necessity rather than a dream for many.
In this In Focus, we take a brief look at the issue of health, happiness and wellbeing from different perspectives. Simon Hicks YU reflects on Charles Montgomery’s talk at this year’s Congress in Birmingham (see p.27). The author of the book Happy City gave an optimistic view on how we can achieve greater happiness in the way we create places. As David Rudlin AoU points out (see p.30), a key message seems to be that human wellbeing depends on interaction between people and that we therefore need to create places which foster such interaction.
Cycling is seen by many as the answer to traffic congestion in today’s towns and cities, and so long as it is done in a safe environment, cycling has the added benefit of improving health too. It is this aspect of creating safe environments that Henk Bouwman AoU and Anita Dirix (see p.33) start their article on what London (and other cities) might learn from the Dutch. In reviewing the London Walkability Model (see p.36), George Weeks YU argues that the healthiest urban form is one that contributes to the richness of the urban fabric. He notes that evidence shows that a walkable environment correlates with people’s propensity to walk. Hopefully they can interact as well.
There is a danger that with good intentions we adopt various strategies because they are good for us humans without really knowing whether they are having any affect at all. It is relatively easy to measure the health of a community either directly or by using indicators such as the purchase of particular medicines. Measuring happiness and wellbeing, however, are harder. As Rachel Toms points out in her interview (see p.44), measuring needs to improve if we are to really design healthy environments.