Study highlights benefits of green space

Having access to green spaces significantly reduces the gap in wellbeing between richer and poorer people, a study found.

Socioeconomic inequality in mental wellbeing was 40 per cent narrower among people reporting good access to green or recreational areas, compared to those with poor access.

The research team say that green space may help in reducing health inequalities.

Access to green or recreational space was the only neighbourhood characteristic among those examined which had a link to narrower inequalities in wellbeing.

Green space could have an important part to play in reducing socioeconomic health inequalities, researchers say.

Making ends meet

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, was carried out by the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH), which is shared by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Researchers looked at data on more than 21,000 urban residents from 34 nations recorded in the 2012 European Quality of Life Survey.

They also measured residents’ mental wellbeing.

The measure of socioeconomic position distinguished between how able respondents were to make ends meet at the end of the month.

Respondents also reported on how easy it was for them to access to neighbourhood facilities, such as green space, public transport and cultural services, such as a cinema.

The study accounted for other influencing factors such as age, sex, and education level, together with and neighbourhood problems such as noise, traffic and crime.

Impact on health

Socioeconomic inequality in mental wellbeing was 40 per cent narrower among respondents reporting good access to green space, compared with those with poorer access.

None of the other neighbourhood characteristics or services were associated with narrower inequality.

This study was the first to compare different neighbourhood characteristics or services to see which were associated with health inequality.

Many experiments have identified that contact with nature can be a balm to those who are stressed or fatigued. It seems that the beneficial effects of using green areas are stronger for those under greater levels of financial stress.

Professor Jamie PearceSchool of GeoSciences