Can changes to our neighbourhood affect our health?
The physical environment of the local neighbourhood is thought to play an important role in how healthy people are, both physically and mentally. The more difficult it is to get to the local shops, library, health centre or park, the harder it is to motivate yourself to go out. This can lead people to become isolated and fearful.
Reasons for not going out might be that the neighbourhood looks dirty and uncared for. Or that public transport is not available, there are busy roads to cross, or that there is nowhere nice to go to sit. Some people, particularly older people, might need additional help and reassurance from sign posts, and availability of public benches and toilets.
Some research has shown that changing the physical structures of our local neighbourhoods to make them nicer and easier to walk and cycle through reduces worry, fear of crime and encourages people to go out. Changes could include introducing cycle paths, pedestrianised zones or more green space. Better access to public transport can also help. However the evidence supporting these kinds of changes varies in quality and hasn’t tended to show a direct link between these changes and health improvement.
In this project we will look at all the academic research where these aspects of the physical structure of our neighbourhoods have been studied. We will include studies that focus on the whole population, adults and older adults but will exclude studies on children. We will focus on mental health, social inclusion and general well-being. We will assess the quality of the studies and summarise all that are relevant, using methods that are designed to reduce bias.
At the end of this work we will be able to provide a thorough and robust set of information on the relationship between our neighbourhoods and health to those who write policy and who look after public health.