Sunday, 8 February 2009

Green Living: Access to Green Spaces Improves Health

New research published in the Lancet shows that access to green spaces, such as parks and river corridors reduces health inequality. The health gap between richer and poorer residents in areas with access to green spaces was half of that in areas where such access was not possible.

Researchers examined records from more than 360,000 deaths across England (excluding men and women above the standard age of retirement). Access to green spaces was defined as the proportion of such spaces in a resident’s local area, excluding gardens. The study concentrated on those in the lowest to middle income brackets.

Links were revealed between the levels of income and access to green space, in relation to deaths from all causes, but particularly circulatory causes, such as heart disease. Researchers surmise that access to green spaces encourages activity and exercise, whilst other studies have linked access to green spaces to stress levels.

The study demonstrates that differences in health inequality can exist between populations exposed to the same welfare state, health service and income, but living in different types of physical environment; with access or not to green areas. The researchers recommend that the impact of the physical environment on health inequality be taken into account in urban planning and development.

Mitchell, R. and Popham, F. (2008). Effect of exposure to natural environment on health inequalities: an observational population study. The Lancet. 372(9650): 1655-1660.

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