Aarhus Universitets segl

Urban Health Sensing: Measuring human physiological stress response to urban settings using wearable sensors

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandling

Creating an environment that encourages healthy urban living is increasingly being recognised as a public health priority. Public open space (POS) plays a significant role in fostering human health and well-being in cities. However, because of certain methodological limitations, traditional methods have failed to assess relationships between the coexistence of POS features and environmental stress for people at the individual’s level. It is imperative to foster a comprehensive understanding of the urban environment, environmental exposures and urban policies, something which is a significant feature of urban health research. Therefore, this thesis addresses the challenge of developing an in-depth investigation of the effect of urban features on human health in different types of public open spaces.
In order to achieve this aim, the author utilised an integrated approach, combining a wearable camera, a biosensor wristband and GPS as a package to track the changes in individuals' physiological stress response, continuously, during their exposure to urban features. Although many studies have integrated multiple sensors for health and environment monitoring, the approach is still at the early stages of development. In this thesis, a systematic review to assess the feasibility of integrating multiple personal sensors and proposed workable approaches was first conducted in order to optimise the integration and improve the feasibility of future studies. Based on the knowledge gained from the review, an experimental study, in which a sensor package was employed in different urban contexts (water area, transit area, green area, commercial area, motor traffic area and mixed office and residential area), was designed. Next, machine learning methods were employed to detect urban features from personal imagery and to calculate a change score to assess human physiological stress responses based on galvanic skin response (GSR) and skin temperature from the wristband. Subsequently, a multi-method approach was applied to examine the relationship between urban indicators and human physiological stress responses.
In this thesis, 86 participants were recruited for the experimental study "Urban Health Sensing" in Copenhagen, Denmark, from June 2021 to September 2021. The findings provide important insights into urban flow, greenery, water bodies and sitting facilities and their impact on humans’ physiological stress responses. First, the effect of green and blue urban features (i.e. vegetation and water) on physiological stress response can be positive or negative depending on the context. Second, context, as a "buffer" surrounding people, can reduce the impact of environmental stressors, which is essential in health-promoting urban design. Third, in reality, "inactive" designs (i.e. improper placement of urban elements and urban facilities with low utilisation rate) of urban features can increase people's physiological stress response. Subsequently, the experimental study was repeated in Salzburg, Austria, from November 2021 to December 2021 to test the findings. The findings of this investigation complement those of earlier studies and expand our understanding with real-world examples that emphasise the importance of "active" designs in a healthy environment. Lastly, this thesis summarises "inactive" design typologies, considering the contexts, and suggests using "soft" health-promoting urban design strategies in micro-scale public open spaces to improve the design quality and promote positive health effects.
In conclusion, a better understanding of what constitutes a healthy urban environment was obtained in this thesis. It proved that human physiological stress response changes distinctly during the exposure to an urban flow of people, bicycles, vehicles, water bodies, greenery and sitting facilities in different contexts. This thesis urges urban planners and architects to consider health-oriented urban design to promote health, sustainability and equity, in the future.
ForlagAarhus Universitet
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2022

Se relationer på Aarhus Universitet Citationsformater

ID: 276239227