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Living in Cities, Naturally

Key Message

Cities designed well, with nature in mind and at hand, can be understood as natural, supportive of both ecosystem integrity and public health.


Hartig, Terry and Kahn, Peter H. (2016). Living in cities, naturally. Science. 352(6288): 938-940. doi:10.1126/science.aaf3759


This article is looking at how psychological benefits from encounters with natural features and processes can offset the psychological costs of other urban living conditions. Answers to this question will help improve the quality of life of today’s growing urban populations. 


Crowding, noise, and other stressful  urban  conditions increase the risk of mental disorders such as anxiety  and  depression. However, urban areas also have environmental assets that support mental health. For example, parks, green spaces, street trees, and community gardens can facilitate physical activity, social contacts, and stress reduction. 

Psychological research has substantiated long-standing reasoning about parks and green spaces as health resources for urban populations. This reasoning has guided the creation of parks in many cities, such as Central Park in New York and Mount Royal Park in Montreal. Extending such precedents, researchers, design professionals, citizen groups, and others are working together to create sustainable urban fabrics in our increasingly urbanized world. These efforts—under banners such as green urbanism, green infrastructure, biophilic design, and renaturing—seek a better synthesis of natural processes and ecosystem functions with architecture and urban infrastructure through acts of creation, preservation, and ecological restoration. Such efforts are needed for psychological as well as ecological purposes. The evidence mentioned above and more like it warn against assuming that people can simply adapt to increasing urban density and its concomitants without negative consequences for health and well-being.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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