Health & Environment

Park Shape Could Reduce Mortality Risk

A study by Texas A&M researchers found that people living near irregularly shaped parks had a lower mortality risk.
By Richard Nira, Texas A&M University College of Architecture December 6, 2019

Graphic of simple versus irregularly shaped parks
Examples of low value, regularly shaped parks versus high value, irregularly shaped parks.

Texas A&M College of Architecture


Some community parks are square, a reflection of the city block where they’re located — but irregularly shaped parks may reduce the mortality risk of residents who live near them, according to a study by scholars in Texas A&M University’s College of Architecture.

Huaquing Wang, a doctoral urban and regional sciences student, and Lou Tassinary, professor of visualization, said in their paper describing the research that nearly all studies investigating the effects of natural environments on human health are focused on the amount of greens pace in a community. “We found that the shape or form of green space has an important role in this association,” they said.

Their research was published in the Nov. 2019 issue of The Lancet Planetary Health. In the study, Wang and Tassinary performed statistical analyses of Philadelphia land cover data to assess links between landscape spatial metrics and health outcomes. They found that residents living in census tracts with more connected, aggregated and complex-shaped green spaces had a lower mortality risk.

“Our results suggest that linking existing parks with green ways or adding new, connected parks might be fiscally accessible strategies for promoting health,” they write in the paper.

“We showed that the complexity of the park shape was positively associated with a lower risk of mortality,” they said. “This association might be attributable to the increased number of access points provided by complex-shaped green spaces.”

Irregularly shaped parks are either designed that way or shaped by the parcel they’re established in, Wang said. Lower mortality risk wasn’t associated with any particular form, but the data supports the idea that the more complex the park shape, the better, she said.

The relationship between park shape and mortality is important to city designers and planners who seek to create healthier living environments, they said in the paper.

“Our findings bring us closer to understanding the mechanisms underlying the protective effects of green space on mortality,” they said.

This article by Richard Nira originally appeared on the College of Architecture website.

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