Over 70 city leaders, health, housing and community experts met to examine what it would take for Leeds to be a ‘mentally healthy’ city. 

At a conference organised by the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, international urban design expert David Rudlin highlighted challenges and opportunities for cities looking to make the most of their environments to improve the mental health of citizens.

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Councillor Lisa Mulherin, chair of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board, said:

“Our event was aimed at generating answers and ideas to feed into planning and development work which is shaping Leeds in the decades ahead. Our city has many challenges to tackle if we are to improve the health of the city, and while people may not instantly think of the environment being one of these, we know it has a massive impact.”

Research discussed at the event demonstrated links between the surroundings in which we live and mental health. Examples of factors which make a difference were the ‘greyness’ of buildings, access to green space and connectivity to places of leisure, work and exercise. An Exeter University study suggested the mental health benefits of moving to a greener area last longer than the benefits of getting married or finding a new job.

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for Neighbourhoods, Planning and Personnel, said:

“We are delivering a wide range of initiatives to improve housing and community facilities throughout the city. What David Rudlin’s research shows is the importance of taking a broad perspective when developments are being planned and delivered. It is more than just bricks and mortar – it is about hearts and minds too.”

David Rudlin from Urbanism Environment and Design, said:

“There is an increasing understanding that the design of the urban environment can have a significant impact on mental health. What is less well understood is what we should do about it, with different studies making sometimes contradictory suggestions. Today has been about trying to find a way forward in Leeds, and draw some conclusions about how health, happiness and wellbeing can be considered alongside all of the wider issues facing urban areas.”

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