Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning


City and Regional Planning


Amir Hajrasouliha, Ph.D.


Sustainable development efforts frequently focus on understanding and promoting the factors that influence health and wellbeing. Urban environments have received attention in recent years as spaces which can increase psychological distress. Despite hypothesized reports of urban environments being less conducive to good mental health then natural environments, few studies have investigated the effects of urban form characteristics (size, density, nuisances, transportation, and housing characteristics) and mental health measures at the city level. Using 2014 data from the 500 largest cities in the United States, this thesis evaluates the relationship between urban form and aggregate self-report scores of poor mental health. Results suggest that elements of the built environment have a direct influence on mental health status. The aim of this study is to test the association of urban form characteristics and psychological distress using a cross-sectional analysis of individual health survey responses. Mental health data were collected for a study of Center for Disease Control health characteristics in the 500 largest cities in the United States. Urban form data was collected from both United States Census and GIS datasets such as the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing and Transportation Affordability Index (H+T Index). Linear regression analysis and factor analyses were used to estimate the relationship between psychological distress and urban form characteristics. Results suggest that urban density is negatively associated with mental health status at city level. This finding is logical and confirms earlier research. While measures of housing cost and diversity were slightly negatively associated with mental health, measures of transportation cost and employment access were slightly positively associated.