UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Assessing Trade-Offs and Optimal Ranges of Density for Life Expectancy and 12 Causes of Mortality in Metro Vancouver, Canada, 1990–2016 Yu, Jessica; Gustafson, Paul, 1968-; Tran, Martino, 1975-; Brauer, Michael


Background: Understanding and managing the impacts of population growth and densification are important steps for sustainable development. This study sought to evaluate the health trade-offs associated with increasing densification and to identify the optimal balance of neighbourhood densification for health. Methods: We linked population density with a 27-year mortality dataset in Metro Vancouver that includes census-tract levels of life expectancy (LE), cause-specific mortalities, and area-level deprivation. We applied two methods: (1) difference-in-differences (DID) models to study the impacts of densification changes from the early 1990s on changes in mortality over a 27-year period; and (2) smoothed cubic splines to identify thresholds of densification at which mortality rates accelerated. Results: At densities above ~9400 persons per km², LE began to decrease more rapidly. By cause, densification was linked to decreased mortality for major causes of mortality in the region, such as cardiovascular diseases, neoplasms, and diabetes. Greater inequality with increasing density was observed for causes such as human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), sexually transmitted infections, and self-harm and interpersonal violence. Conclusions: Areas with higher population densities generally have lower rates of mortality from the major causes, but these environments are also associated with higher relative inequality from largely preventable causes of death.

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