McCarthy, Danielle

Understanding the Role of Urban Nature in Physical and Mental Wellbeing in Older Age Adults, Belfast




School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering
Queen's University Belfast
Level 3
David Keir Building
Stranmillis Road
Belfast BT9 5AG
Northern Ireland



+44 (0)2890 974254


Current Research:

Across all ages, evidence-based findings demonstrate that an ecological presence in the urban environment plays a fundamental role on well-being.  Sitting at the juncture of public health, healthy ageing and sustainable cities, this research is an investigation of the role urban nature plays in the mediation of physical activity and mental wellbeing in older age adults in Belfast.

Underpinning this research is the theory and conception of ‘Biophilia’ to describe the psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is ‘alive and vital’ emerging out of Fromm’s (1964) and E.O Wilson’s (1984) work. While a case is made for green and blue features in urban environments, demonstrating substantial benefits at individual and community level, the distribution of these features remain widely uneven.

This research maps an index of ‘biophilic’ urban nature features against objective GPS-pedometer measures of physical activity and self reported mental wellbeing.  It is hypothesized that where a greater presence of nature is witnessed, measures of physical and mental well-being will be found to be greater. A secondary feature of the research responds to a gap in the literature and seeks to provide greater insight into the unique role nature plays for older age adults which remains understudied to date.The research adopts a mixed method approach methodological approach to examining the association between biophilic presence and walkable neighbourhoods on older adult physical activity and mental wellbeing in Belfast.

Supervisors: Professor Geraint Ellis & Dr Brendan Murtagh


MSc Urban Planning, University of West of England, September 2015- 2016 [Distinction]
PgDip Urban Studies, Simon Fraser University September 2013-2014
BA.Humanities : Psychology, University of British Columbia  - June 2008 - 2013

Conferences / Presentations:

ISOCARP – TUP (Society of Polish Town Planners) – City of Gdynia Young Planning Professionals National Workshop – Gdynia 2017 Gdynia Urban Summer School "Dynamic City"
Fondazione Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, in collaboration with DAStU – Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (Politecnico di Milano) and the International Panel on Social Progress (Princeton/Paris)  International immersive workshop, Milan, 16-17 February 2018


RTPI Future Planning Bursary


Department of Employment and Learning PhD Studentship Grant – January 2017


Affliate Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute