Developing Benign Cities: health and wellbeing in the urban environment.

According to the United Nations Population Fund we are currently experiencing an unprecedented period of urban growth. Since 2008 more than half of the world’s population lives in urban environments, and by 2030, a predicted 5 billion of us will live in built up areas. While cities provide jobs, income, education, cultural and leisure opportunities, urban living is nevertheless associated with a wide range of health and wellbeing concerns. For example public health studies of the north west region of the UK indicate that compared to neighbouring rural areas, residents of the city of Liverpool have lower levels of mental wellbeing across the lifespan, increased prevalence of mental health difficulties, lower feelings of wellbeing, reduced opportunity to enjoy natural environments and significantly higher levels of obese children (at aged 10-11y) than the national average.

It is increasingly obvious that within cities across the globe, pockets of ‘poor wellbeing’ exist. While research suggests that resource inequalities, deprivation, poverty and sense of wellbeing overlap, equally there is evidence to show that sense of wellbeing and relative deprivation are distinguishable.

A special interest event, held at the University of Liverpool on 12 March 2014 and chaired by Professor Rhiannon Corcoran, examined the impact of city living on health and wellbeing with a broad remit. It brought together a truly diverse and multi-disciplinary audience from cognitive and clinical science, public health, epidemiology and sociology to urban planning, civic design, geography and literary studies.

With keynotes from Robert Huxford (Urban Design Group) and John Ashton (UK Faculty of Public Health) along with a further 18 short, sharp presentations from University of Liverpool academics and colleagues from across the UK, the event showcased the diverse research expertise in this area to which the University has access. As academic lead for the research theme and co-director of the Prosocial Place Programme, Rhiannon was confident that the session would generate a force for positive change through the shared research and action ethos of developing benign cities. 

A 'storify' of twitter and online activity around this event is available to view online.

If you have an interest in this area and would like to join the conversation around benign cities and resilient communities, please contact us.

Rhiannon Corcoran is a co-director of the Heseltine Institute, leading our work on health and wellbeing. Find our more about Rhiannon's work...

Benign Cities poster  | Benign Cities Leaflet