New Publication In Cities and Health 

Neighbourhoods in southern cities primely undergo organic transformation with minimal planned interventions, influencing mental well-being significantly. Yet, national, or city-level health policies often overlook neighbourhood-specific challenges, hampering the effectiveness of interventions. The lack of understanding of how local planning affects health makes achieving SDG 3 difficult. Despite rising concerns about mental health in the Global South, the literature on health and planning neglects space-sensitive neighbourhood studies essential for addressing the crisis.

In this paper, Dr Shilpi Roy and Dr Tanjil Sowgat present findings from the SHLC dataset, which examines the health, education, and built environment of rapidly urbanising cities. Through a cross-sectional study involving 14,222 households across 272 neighbourhoods in 13 cities spanning seven countries, the paper establishes a correlation between place and the mental well-being of citizens in rapidly urbanising Asian and African cities.

Better coverage of neighbourhood services, improved waste disposal services, quality neighbourhood health facilities and educational opportunities, high family solvency, safety, trust in neighbours, dwelling satisfaction, and habits of exercise are found in this paper to be the most influential attributes for good mental well-being. However, institutional attributes, like political leadership for neighbourhood management and neighbourhood-level associations, are less likely to be associated with good mental well-being. The paper finds that diverse physical and social attributes of neighbourhoods influence mental well-being.  Yet, the relative importance of different neighbourhood environments varies significantly from context to context, as does the importance of one attribute over another.

Often, investments in the southern cities are concentrated on improving a neighbourhood’s objective physical environment, but the perceived physical aspects of the neighbourhood are more crucial than the objective physical qualities such as educational opportunities, health facilities, open spaces and an environment that encourages physical activities in the form of exercise. Similarly, the urbanisation process is claimed to be related to the changing social fabric of the neighbourhoods, possibly due to its contribution to the deteriorating nature of the perceived social environment. The perceived social environment of the neighbourhood is critical for improved mental health and well-being of the residents. Since southern cities have wealth and income disparity among the residents and neighbourhoods, as shown in the study, plans must focus on equitable distribution of resources when investing for good mental well-being. As the significance of influential attributes varies among neighbourhood wealth categories, this paper recommends that a shift towards a place- and context-specific neighbourhood approach for policymaking can best address the mental well-being in rapidly urbanising cities in the Global South.

Shilpi Roy & Tanjil Sowgat (06 Feb 2024): The neighbourhood effect on mental well-being in the Global South, Cities & Health, DOI: 10.1080/23748834.2024.2303565