The form built from our urban environment has a drastic influence on the health and lifestyle of Metro Vancouver residents, according to a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
In conclusion: suburban environments that depend on cars cause unhealthy lifestyles, while dense, exploratory, and transit-friendly environments with abundant parks encourage residents to be more physically active, among many benefits.
This also means Vancouver and parts of West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster have a much healthier environment than the dominant areas in the suburbs.
Researchers at UBC's Health Design and Design Lab are partnering with various government agencies, local health authorities, and TransLink for their new study called "Where Matters: Health & Economic Impacts of Where We Live."
The team also analyzed two data sets, with a combined set of statistics of more than 50,000 individuals.
Until now, according to the researchers, "very few studies have examined how transportation investment, environmental walkability and access to green space have been linked to less chronic diseases and lower health care costs. To date, the available evidence is used to inform the decisions of major transportation investments rarely taking into account the potential health impacts and associated costs of these factors. "
This research was led by Dr. Lawrence Frank, a UBC professor and chairman of Bombardier in Sustainable Transportation and Public Health.
"There is an increasing consensus that the postal code of the environment in which we live is as important as our genetic code," the researchers wrote.
"Our findings reveal that the type of environment you live in is a problem for your health. For this reason, it is important to know that the types of investments we make in our transportation infrastructure, and land use patterns generated from our community, will ultimately have an impact on the money we earn individually and collectively as public expenditure for health care. "
The main findings of this study reveal a striking difference between lifestyle and health outcomes of the two types of urban areas.
Those who live in an environment that can be traveled on foot, compared to the suburbs, the area that depends on the car, are:
- 45% more likely to walk for transportation, and 17% more likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity every week
- 39% less likely to suffer from diabetes
- 42% less likely to be obese
- 23% lower to experience stressful days
- 47% more likely to have a strong sense of belonging to the community
In addition, those who live in areas with six or more parks nearby ("close" defined within one km), compared to areas without parks, are:
- 20% more likely to walk for recreation or recreation
- 33% are more likely to meet the recommended level of physical activity every week
- 37% smaller for diabetes and 39% smaller for having heart disease
- 43% less likely to be obese
- 19% less likely to experience stressful days
- 23% are more likely to have a strong sense of belonging to the community
In addition, residents living in walkable city centers generally have lower health care costs compared to those who live in suburban areas. This finding is also similar for those who are within one km of a number of parks.
Through analysis of health care cost data, researchers also determine the following:
- Differences in diabetes health care costs:
- People who live in walking areas have diabetes-related health care costs 23% lower than people in areas that are dependent on cars
- People who live with six parks or more nearby have diabetes-related health care costs 75% lower than people with zero or one park
- Differences in hypertension health care costs:
- People who live in pedestrian areas have hypertension-related health care costs 47% lower than people in areas that are dependent on cars
- People living with six or more parks around it have hypertension related health care costs 69% lower than people with zero or one park
- The difference in the cost of treating heart disease
- People who live in pedestrian areas have a health care cost related to heart disease 31% lower than people in areas that are dependent on cars
- People living with six parks or more nearby have a 69% less cost of treating heart disease than people with zero or one park
In real dollar numbers, the difference in health care costs is very striking – and when multiplied by the affected population, the costs reach tens of millions. For example, the cost of diabetes is $ 38,900 for someone who lives in a car-dependent area, while it is $ 17,600 for someone who lives in a walkable area.
Researchers hope policy makers will apply their research findings to policy making, such as policies that not only expand public transport but also integrate infrastructure investment with high density walkable development.
The surrounding environment must be designed to be oriented towards walking and cycling, and requires a lot of parks, green spaces and open spaces.
In addition, land use planning must support increased access to shops and services and overall mix of land use and density.
However, at the same time, policymakers in the healthiest regions of the region – especially the City of Vancouver – face an uphill battle by creating a supply of affordable housing. The shortage of affordable housing for all income drives more and more people out of the city and into suburban areas that are dependent on cars.