The Effect of Physical Stimuli on Citizens' Happiness in Urban Environments: The Case of the Pedestrian Area of the Historical Part of Tehran

Sahar Samavati, Ehsan Ranjbar
2017 Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health   unpublished
OF PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS We introduce a new, comprehensive approach to improve the quality of pedestrian areas based on factors of urban spaces and public characteristics of urban life associated with happiness. The results indicate the need for multidisciplinary collaboration to improve pedestrian area quality, provide a primary context for urban managers to think about Iranian urban spaces in different way, and offer insights for urban managers globally who are interested in increasing
more » ... ess through urban design and management. Abstract The uncontrolled growth of urbanisation in recent decades has exerted negative and harmful effects on the environmental-physical structure of cities, and thus the physical and mental health of citizens. An overview of the literature on mental health indicates that there is a strong connection between mental health and happiness. This literature has been largely produced as a result of the experiences in urban planning and design. This paper aims to investigate the physical stimuli that affect citizens' happiness and provide an evaluation of their effects. Global data are indicative of the unfavourable situation of Iran in terms of happiness, with the country ranked 110th out of 158 countries. This situation may be partly explained by the physical aspects of urban environments through which happiness can manifest. As one of the first studies in the field of urban happiness in Iran, this paper aims to investigate the physical stimuli that affect happiness and evaluate influence of these stimuli on urban spaces in Tehran. The pedestrian area of central Tehran was selected as the site of this study for its basic qualities and pedestrian-orientedness, providing a realistic insight into the factors of happiness in urban environments. Field observation, interview, and a conceptual model were used to investigate relationships between the factors. The findings suggest that, according to Veenhoven model, the average level of happiness among Tehran's citizens is 5.9 out of 10. The physical factors in the urban space that were identified to influence happiness included: environmental elements, pedestrian-orientedness, bicycle-orientedness, flexibility, legibility, variety, and place identity, of which the most influential factors seem to be pedestrian-orientedness and environmental elements.