Harmful Effects of The Built Environment on Public Health

The main important subject where the expanding human environment is harming is public health. To begin with, this harmful effect is clearly felt on psychology of people. For example, poor quality built environment may leave bad traces on child psychology. Sullivan and Chang stated that children in a non-well considered, poor architectural environment find it difficult to improve their social and mental activities due to the environment and traffic noise.(2011). According to Garin at al. one of the reasons children experience psychological distress is noise pollution from the surrounding roads, railways and airports. Noise pollution and the number of people with psychological complaints are directly related.(2014, “Noise”) The choice of a built environment is critical to prevent disruption the development of children’s mental development and social activities. In addition, another negative impact of the built environment on the mental health of society is that it increases the risk of depression in the elderly. Evans illustrated that the housing where elderly people spend their lives more often and their close environment, poor accessibility and poor user-oriented design increases the rate of depression in the elderly.(2003, para. 1-2,4) In order to prevent the built environment from adversely affecting the psychology of the elderly; issues such as transport, accessibility and respect for human scale should be considered during the planning phase. According to Ho, for the elderly, the shape, location and relationship of the built environment are also important for their mental health. The gap between building heights, dense housing, poor housing quality, comfort and wealth per person increases the likelihood of elderly people suffering from depression. For example, the gap between housing qualities indicates contrasting socioeconomic and lifestyle in a region. This increases the risk of depression because individuals feel lonely (2017).As we have seen, one of the main reason for the elderly to be depressed is that the built environment does not properly support social life. The elderly can become more depressed when they feel under pressure from the build space and encounter problems in the social structure more often. It is clear that houses, railway stations, airports and roads covering the built environment are extremely important for the mentally healthy lives of people. While children are highly affected by external noise pollution, elderly people face the danger of depression because of non user-friendly, insufficiently thought-out, non-human-built environments.

Secondly, the harmful effects of the built environment on human beings can also be seen in terms of physical health. When we look at these harmful effects, it is clear that one of the most important factors is the air pollution caused by human beings. According to Perdue, Stone and Gustin, some of the most common diseases, such as heart disease and respiratory diseases, are triggered by air pollution, that mainly caused by automobiles and factories. Today, city designs encourage people not to walk but to drive.” When traffic was reduced in Atlanta for the Olympic Games, peak ozone concentrations decreased 27.9% and the number of asthma emergency medical events simultaneously fell by 41.6%”(2003, “The Relation Between Physical Space and Healthy Populations”, para. 2,4,5,9).Frequent driving affects public health considerably, so we need to walk close distances and promote public transport. Research by Lavin, Higgings, Metcalfe and Jordan illustrated that air pollution, which is one of the main triggers of asthma, especially affects the elderly, children and respiratory diseases, also shortens the average life expectancy by at least 1 year(2006, “Air quality”,  p. 18).It is an unquestionable fact that air pollution caused by human beings affects people the most. We cannot live in a healthier world unless we eliminate the factors that cause air pollution that we spread to the environment. In addition, the detrimental effects of the man-made environment on the physical health of man, can also occur through housing and buildings. According to Glasgow Centre for Population Health people who spend most of their time at home are affected by factors such as indoor air pollution, humidity, noise, lighting and design. For example, poor indoor air quality is one of the factors that trigger asthma (2013, p. 8, para. 2-3).Therefore, we should build the buildings in which we live with our health in mind and do not skip with the necessary maintenance. As Krieger and Higgings define that since low-quality housing increases the risk of injury to people, the structures should be designed to prevent people from experiencing accidents (2002, “İnjuries”). Unfortunately, people are endangering human health because they consider making money rather than housing, and using cheap materials. To sum up, human beings are changing the natural environment and creating a built environment to live in better conditions. However, this built environment is ruining human life with air pollution and unhealthy structures.

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