Thanks to Gin for writing a good blog. Honestly I thought that mental health is inextricably linked to the urban environment for a long time. Gin summed up the reasons for increasing the psychological problems of the city, and I followed and read through several materials on how to improve the urban environment to help develop mental health.
Reasonably optimize the layout of urban green space system and improve the accessibility of urban green space
In 2013, the US Doctors and Parks Bureau jointly launched the “Park Prescriptions” program, covering parks in five cities including Washington, DC. The prescription is to let patients go to the designated park for a walk at a specific time. Patients can relieve the mental stress by touching the green healthy environment in a high-density, high-heterogeneous urban environment.
Improve the service level and uniformity of the green space through the micro green space
High-density cities are very expensive. It is very hard to build a comprehensive large park. The pocket parks with “small greens” can be more flexible to meet the needs of urban residents in sports and fitness, close to nature, stress alleviation due to their small size, flexible location and distributed distribution. In this context, micro green spaces are becoming increasingly vital in metropolises.
Pocket parks in the US have gradually occupied every corner of the urban space and become a breathing hole among high-rise buildings. Paley Park, located on 53rd Street in New York, opened in 1967, is an excellent example of a pocket park (Figure 1). The park is simply organized by using a 6-meter-high water curtain wall waterfall, a tree-lined square space, and small but exquisite landscape structures. The sound of water produced by the waterfall masks the hustle and bustle of the city. According to a survey conducted by William H. White, the area ofPaley Park is only 1/8,000 (390 square meters) of New York’s Central Park, but its annual average number of tourists per hectare is twice than that of Central Park.
Fig 1. Paley Park
Improve the green rate of streets and public spaces and improve the health benefits of green spaces
The area of green space is compressed by high-density cities, which requires us to effectively increase the green looking ratio by reasonably allocating trees and increasing vertical greening in limited green land. The experimental evidence of study shows when the street green looking ratio is between 20% and 40%, the curve of the degree of decompression is best (Fig.2). Increasing the green looking ratio in a certain range can obtain obvious decompression effects, but it should not be blindly increased. The excessively high green looking ratio will reduce the decompression effect and may even increase mental stress.
Fig 2. Quantitative relationship between green rate and decompression
Improve the greening ratio of residential areas and promote social well-being
In addition to reducing stress, improving the green space visible in the residential window can also effectively adjust mood and reduce crime rate. A study of low-income public rental tenants shows the tenants who can look more arbor combinations are significantly less aggressive than those who just see monotonous grass.
Special consideration should be given to special mental health needs in the design of hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc.
Medical research has shown that patients seeing greenery from windows have a shorter recovery period and less inflammatory response, and fewer analgesics than patients who have no windows or only see the urban buildings.
Japan, many European and American countries have exploratory practices in healing landscapes, such as the Japanese horticultural therapy garden of the Himeji Prefecture Awaji Landscape Gardening School for senior citizens and disabled people and American Rusk Institute of Rehabilitative Medicine, providing a playground for children with brain damage.
Fig 3. Horticultural therapy garden of the Himeji Prefecture Awaji Landscape Gardening School
Fig 4. Playground of Rusk Institute of Rehabilitative Medicine
As the urban health prevention facilities, the park’s input cost is not high while the range of people affected is very wide. In 2016, the famous medical journal The Lancet launched a special issue of the Healthy City, emphasizing the remarkable effects of urban design on promoting walking, promoting non-motor vehicles, controlling environmental pollution, and their further promotion of health.
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