College and university campuses can play an important role in a student’s life, and campus outdoor spaces have the ability to positively impact various aspects of student health and well-being. It has long been understood that natural environments can promote health and well being, and in recent years research has begun to examine the impact of parks and landscapes in urban settings on subjective well-being (SWB). Subjective well-being (aka “happiness”) refers to
one’s self-reported measure of well-being and is thought of as having a high level of positive affect, low level of negative affect, and high degree of life satisfaction (Diener, 1984).
This study was conducted to assess the interrelationships between affective experiences, SWB, and usage of campus outdoor spaces in order to learn how outdoor spaces on the Arizona State University (ASU) Tempe campus can be enhanced to increase SWB and usage. In total, 832 students completed a survey questionnaire 1,140 times for six campus outdoor spaces. The results showed that students experience the greatest amount of happiness in the Secret Garden
and James Turrell ASU Skyspace, relaxation/restoration is the affective experience most strongly related to SWB, and SWB is negatively correlated with frequency of visits but positively link with duration of visits. To improve student happiness and usage of outdoor spaces on campuses, planners and designers should work on increasing the relaxing/restorative qualities of existing
locations, creating new spaces for relaxation/restoration around campus, reducing the perception of crowding and noise in large spaces, increasing fun/excitement by adding stimuli and/or opportunities for activity and entertainment, and adding equipment necessary for students to perform the activities they want. In addition to the ASU Tempe campus, the methodology and
findings of this research could be used to improve outdoor spaces on other college and university campuses and other types of outdoor environments.