Literature review on the impacts of infrastructure on quality of life

Project details

Full project title:  Literature review on the impacts of infrastructure on quality of life

Duration: July 2020-November 2020

Funder: National Infrastructure Commission

Project Leader for SPE: Dr Danielle Sinnett

Other UWE Bristol researchers:

Project summary

The purpose of this project was to provide a review of academic evidence for links between economic infrastructure and quality of life. As a guide to existing evidence, it was based on a comprehensive search and review of published academic work, and attempts to synthesise these relations.

The review focused on the infrastructure sectors of transport, energy, waste, water and wastewater, flood risk, and digital. It does not cover all effects associated with infrastructure but rather, centres on evidence that demonstrates impacts on quality of life, defined as those ‘factors other than income and wealth which affect people’s wellbeing’, including connections (e.g., access to services), health and safety, affordability, local built and natural surroundings, and comfort and convenience. Studies were judged to be relevant where they reported on the measured impact of at least one type of infrastructure, or absence of infrastructure, in relation to the quality of life themes defined above.

The review includes evidence from the UK and international sources from relevant economically developed comparator countries. It was not intended to be a global review of infrastructure challenges. Rather, it centres on providing evidence that is particularly relevant to the NIC and the contemporary infrastructure conditions of the UK.

Key findings

  • A total of 8,703 papers were identified in total, and, following title and abstract screening, 104 studies were included in the review.
  • The relationship between infrastructure and quality of life is strongest for the transport sector, followed by infrastructure to manage flood risk. In these cases, our review focused on existing reviews.
  • Energy, waste and digital sectors were all underrepresented in the literature.
  • Our review suggests that, at least in developed countries, the success of infrastructure systems can render them ‘invisible’ and possibly, less prevalent within academic study.
  • Much of the scholarship identified is concerned with specific breakdowns or areas of infrastructure deficit (e.g, flooding).

With the exception of newer forms of infrastructure (e.g. green infrastructure) or where priorities have shifted (e.g. away from the automobile and towards active travel), there tends to be an absence of evidence regarding the efficacy of infrastructure to support quality of life in contemporary, developed contexts.

Project contact

For further information on the project, please contact Dr Danielle Sinnett.


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