Study reveals benefits of denser suburbs

Denser suburbs with better access to amenities for pedestrians provides a myriad of health and economic benefits, a new study from RMIT has found.

Published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, the research shows that denser urban settlement translates to an economic gain of $4500 per resident, while also staving off chronic illness.

The researchers looked at two case studies in different areas of western Melbourne: Altona North, an industrial development site with existing amenities such as transport and shops, and Truganina, a lower density growth area on the urban fringe.

Authors Dr Lucy Gunn and Dr Belen Zapata-Diomedi from the RMIT Centre for Urban Research compared the built environments, and the health and economic benefits that come from living in each suburb.

Their study found that shifting residents to Altona North would result in an average gain of an additional month of living with full health – without chronic diseases associated with physical inactivity such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer.

Gunn said the research shows there is great potential for brownfield developments that make use of existing surrounding infrastructure provided they are designed well.

“If you build a healthier environment there is an economic value that comes back to society,” Gunn said.

“We generally already know this, but this new study details this benefit in health and economic terms.

“With Melbourne’s booming population and the State Government announcing 50,000 housing lots for new suburbs on the city’s fringe, our study offers support and evidence for rethinking urban design.

The report is available here.

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