There are 1.13 billion patients suffering from raised blood pressure in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), raised blood pressure is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths per year, or about 12.8 percent of all deaths. On February 3, Chinmony Sarkar, Chris Webster, and John Gallacher from universities of Hong Kong and Oxford published a study in The International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, about the relationship between the built environment and urban dwellers’ blood pressure and hypertension.

Using 429,334 UK Biobank participants aged between 38 and 73 and living in 22 UK cities, the study looks to examine the associations between neighbourhood walkability and hypertension in an urban area with a large and diverse populace.

“We are spending billions of pounds in preventing and curing cardiovascular diseases,” says Sarkar, an assistant professor at the Healthy High Density Cities Lab of the University of Hong Kong. “If we are able to invest in creating healthy cities through small retrofits in the design of our neighborhoods to make them more activity-friendly and walkable, then probably, we will have significant savings in future healthcare expenditures.”

The study finds that neighborhood walkability within one-kilometer (0.6-mile) street catchment was beneficially associated with all the three blood pressure outcomes, independent of all other factors. Each interquartile increment in walkability played a role in reducing blood pressure outcomes as well as reducing hypertension risk. The results remained consistent across spatial and temporal scales and were affected by sub-groups, particularly among female participants, aged between 50 and 60 years and employed, living in deprived, high density, and greener areas.

“With the increasing pace of urbanisation and demographic shifts towards an ageing population, we become more vulnerable to chronic diseases,” Sarkar concludes. The researchers agreed that further long-term studies are required to assess the sustained effects of urban factors on hypertension prevention and control.

In June 2017, a group of researchers found that city-dwellers are more inclined to paranoia than their rural counterparts. The researchers used participants from the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study (E-risk), a nationally-representative study of 2,232 British twins, and interviewed them about adolescent psychotic experiences at age 18. Using geocoded census data, the researchers measured “urbanicity,” the impact of living in urban areas at a given time, neighborhood characteristics, and personal victimization by violent crime during childhood and adolescence. The researchers also used surveys of over 5,000 direct neighbors of the E-Risk participants as well as interviews with the participants themselves.