Natural environments—healthy environments? An exploratory analysis of the relationship between greenspace and health.

Posted by Siru Heiskanen on Jul 5, 2017

Authors: De Vries, S., Verheij, R. A., Groenewegen, P. P. and Spreeuwenberg, P.

Year of publication: 2003

Publication: Environment and planning A, 35(10), pp.1717–1731.

Keywords: nature, health,

Link to publication

This study (2003) tested whether people living in greener areas are healthier compared to those living in less green areas. Data of health and land-use of over 10 000 people were analyzed and controlled for socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, as well as urbanity. 

The analyses showed, that:

  • greenness of the living environment has a stronger relationship with self-reported health than urbanity
  • people report fewer symptoms and have better perceived general health and mental health in a greener environment (0.169 vs. –0.085,  p < 0.05)
  • 10 % more greenspace in the living environment leads to a decrease in the number of symptoms that is comparable with a decrease in age by 5 years

Subjects with lower education seemed to be more sensitive to the amount of green in their living environment: this could be due to green environment counteracting against a less healthy lifestyle lower socioeconomic groups have a tendency for. Analyses was done also for three groups that most likely spend their time in their direct living environment: children, housewives and the elderly, the latter two showing stronger relationship than the population in general.

Assuming that creating a new green area affects the amount of greenspace in the living environment of all people living in all neighbourhoods within a distance of about 3 km of this new area, the total health impact of this new green area may be considerable.

“Green living environment may become a necessity rather than the luxury asset it is often thought to be.”

More greenspace leads to less polluted environment, more frequent or longer contact with this greenspace, and more physical activity. Greenspace does not only relate to perceived health, but actually makes people healthier.


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