How better designed cities can save billions and improve our wellbeing

Prioritising health and wellbeing in urban UK development could “provide cities with a £15 billion boost and improve the mental health of millions of people”, according to British Land, one of the UK’s largest property development companies.

A 2017 government review, Thriving at Work, found that poor mental health contributes to between £33 billion and £42 billion of lost costs to employers every year. According to the report, those who are unable to work due to mental health-related illness rely more on benefits, produce less tax revenue and rely on the NHS more.

However, British Land claims that, in the long run, “better designed cities could save our society and the UK economy an estimated £15.3 billion by 2050 and make us all happier and healthier”.

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According to A Design for Life, commissioned by British Land, the 2050 target would be achieved via £3.6 billion worth of savings from less reliance on the NHS and welfare bills, a £5.4 billion productivity increase due to less people taking time off work for stress-related issues and a £6.3 billion boost in economic output from more people being in employment.

The paper, which cites findings from the Centre for Urban Design & Mental Health, identifies that, with two-thirds of the UK population now living in urban environments, fresh and thoughtful design has the potential to improve the wellbeing of around 46 million people.

The secretary of state for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, told Infrastructure Intelligence: “It’s vital that we place more emphasis on earlier health interventions and look at new and innovative ways of supporting people to lead healthier, happier lives. This research highlights the potential benefits of supporting people in ways that don’t involve a clinical setting and shows that putting physical and mental wellbeing at the heart of development is a step in the right direction in improving the health of the nation.”

Chris Grigg, Chief Executive of British Land, added: “Few are aware of the impact of the space around us on how we feel and function. And this power of urban design to increase – or decrease – our wellbeing has a direct link to the UK’s future economic productivity and social cohesion. With most of us now spending our lives in urban environments, there is a meaningful prize to be won from putting good design at the heart of urban development. This would help the Government in its mission to tackle mental illness, increase UK productivity and leave a positive legacy beyond Brexit.”

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Click here to read the full A Design For Life paper


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