The psychological wellbeing benefits of place engagement during walking in urban environments: A qualitative photo-elicitation study


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Abstract

The psychological wellbeing potential of walking in urban environments has received limited attention from scholars, despite the important public health implications of identifying characteristics of urban settings that support wellbeing and encourage behaviour change. The study is the first to explore psychological wellbeing experiences of urban walking framed by theories of restorative environments and therapeutic landscape. Self-reported psychological wellbeing experiences of walking in urban settings were investigated with an innovative application of the photo-elicited interview. Fourteen adults took individual walks in Bristol city centre and photographed their journey; photographs were then discussed during the interview. Participants reported specific engagements with place related to personal connections, the identity of place, and sense of community that resulted in psychological wellbeing benefits. The findings also support the notion that non-natural elements can promote positive affective and cognitive appraisals. Building on the finding that also urban walking can support psychological wellbeing, the findings encourage future research into the health potential of different characteristics of built environments.HIGHLIGHTSNovel exploration of first-person affective and cognitive experience of urban walking.Walking in an urban environment promoted affective benefits despite absence of nature.Place bonds and attachments promote affective states and cognitive recovery.Historic elements support positive affective and cognitive states.Quasi-mobile photo-elicited interview methodology is proposed.

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