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The Upside - Healthy Higher Density Living


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The Upside project will combine evidence from existing research with the lived experiences of residents, on the influence of higher density living on physical, mental and social health. 

Using a citizen science approach, members of the public will be active contributors in the research process, which aims to capture those elements that residents value living in these communities, whilst also identifying potential negative impacts that can be mitigated through good planning and design. 

It is anticipated that the findings from this research will support councils to better plan for healthy communities and more effectively engage with their community on housing more broadly.  

For more information: 
David Morrisey, NSLHD Population Health Promotion 

Who is involved?

​This project is a collaboration between Northern Sydney Local Health District Population Health Promotion, and researchers from Macquarie University and University of Sydney. 

What is the issue?

​Population and household growth in the Northern Sydney region is projected to translate to an additional 92,000 homes by 20361

With limited infill development opportunities across the region and expected changes in household and age structures, the number of people living in higher density dwellings is expected to increase. 

Councils have been set housing targets to meet the demand for various housing types, tenure, price points, locations and design.

​What does the evidence tell us?

Connections & Connectivity

  • Higher dens​ity living, when done well, can be an important form of housing for people across various stages of their lives and can support residents remaining in the communities they are connected to. 
  • Current evidence suggests that well designed higher density housing in compact neighbourhoods can support physical activity, social interaction and access to daily living needs, compared to low density neighbourhoods2
  • This can be attributed to higher residential densities bringing destinations closer together and supporting the presence of local shops, services and public transport with more people, which encourage walking and cycling. 


  • Design of higher density dwellings can also impact on the health and wellbeing of residents. Circulation routes and spaces in apartment buildings can create opportunities to form social ties and communal areas should encourage longer interactions3
  • This includes indoor and outdoor spaces and common areas on various floors in larger developments. Other features which foster social interactions include shaded seating, communal space, green space, access arrangements, regular maintenance, adequate storage, car and bicycle parking. 
  • Conversely, poor quality apartment design and densely populated communities without the infrastructure to support them, have the potential to detrimentally impact the health and wellbeing of residents. 
  • High density housing can have lasting impacts on generations of residents and communities, as defects and poor design are difficult and costly to retrofit.


  1. ​Greater Sydney Commission, North District Plan. Available at: text 47(Accessed 9/2/2023)
  2. Krysiak N (2018). Design and Planning Policy for Family-Friendly Apartment Living (Draft Article). Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda. 
  3. Foster, Hooper, P., Kleeman, A., Martino, E., & Giles-Corti, B. (2020). The high life: A policy audit of apartment design guidelines and their potential to promote residents’ health and wellbeing. Cities, 96, 1–13. Available at: text 48 (Accessed 9/2/2023)