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High Life Study protocol: a cross-sectional investigation of the influence of apartment building design policy on resident health and well-being
  1. Sarah Foster1,2,
  2. Clover Maitland1,3,
  3. Paula Hooper4,
  4. Julian Bolleter4,
  5. Anthony Duckworth-Smith4,
  6. Billie Giles-Corti1,
  7. Jonathan Arundel1
  1. 1 Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 School of Agriculture and Environment, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3 School of Human Sciences (Exercise and Sport Science), University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia
  4. 4 Australian Urban Design Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah Foster; sarah.foster{at}


Introduction The rapid increase in apartment construction in Australia has raised concerns about the impacts of poorly designed and located buildings on resident health and well-being. While apartment design policies exist, their content varies across jurisdictions and evidence on their impact on health and well-being is lacking. This cross-sectional observational study (2017–2021) aims to generate empirical evidence to guide policy decisions on apartment development and help to create healthy, equitable higher-density communities. Objectives include to benchmark the implementation of health-promoting apartment design requirements and to identify associations between requirements and resident health and well-being outcomes.

Methods and analysis Eligible buildings in three Australian cities with different apartment design guidelines will be stratified by area disadvantage and randomly selected (~n=99). Building architects, developers and local governments will be approached to provide endorsed development plans from which apartment and building design features will be extracted. Additional data collection includes a resident survey (~n=1000) to assess environmental stressors and health and well-being impacts and outcomes, and geographic information systems measures of the neighbourhood. The study has 85% power to detect a difference of 0.5 SD in the primary outcome of mental well-being (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale) at a 5% level of significance. Analyses will compare policy compliance and health-promoting design features between cities and area disadvantage groups. Regression models will test whether higher policy compliance (overall and by design theme) is associated with better health and well-being, and the relative contribution of the neighbourhood context.

Ethics and dissemination Human Research Ethics Committees of RMIT University (CHEAN B 21146-10/17) and the University of Western Australia (RA/4/1/8735) approved the study protocol. In addition to academic publications, the collaboration will develop specific health-promoting indicators to embed into the monitoring of apartment design policy implementation and impact, and co-design research dissemination materials to facilitate uptake by decision makers.

  • design guidelines
  • planning policy
  • apartment buildings
  • higher density
  • public health

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  • Contributors SF conceived and designed the study. PH, CM, JB, AD-S, BG-C and JA had input to the study design. SF and CM drafted the manuscript. All the authors contributed to the manuscript drafts and read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding SF is supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) (DE160100140) and RMIT Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellowship, PH by a Healthway Research Fellowship (#32992) and the Australian Urban Design Research Centre, and BG-C by a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellowship (#1107672). The High Life Study is funded by an ARC, DECRA, DE160100140, and a UWA Fellowship Support Scheme grant, RA/1/1997/43; Perth and Sydney arms of the High Life Study are supported by funding from the Western Australian (WA) Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway; #31986).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study protocol has been approved by the RMIT University Design and Social Context College Human Ethics Advisory Network (Subcommittee of the RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee) (CHEAN B 21146-10/17) and the University of Western Australia Human Ethics Research Committee (RA/4/1/8735).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.