Access to green space, the researchers say, brings a natural environment to people that directly influences their health behaviors. They define green spaces as “open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation,” including such geographic areas as parks, playing fields, forests, and woodlands.
The methodology: in geographic terms, the researchers looked at the amount of green space per lower level super output area (LSOA) – a small geographical area used by the UK Office for National Statistics. Individual death records of citizens living in various LSOAs were analyzed for deaths between 2001 and 2005 looking at cause of death, age at death and gender.
Their conclusion: health disparities in circulatory disease mortality for people with lower incomes appears to be lower in people who live in regions of high green space compared to people living in low green space areas.
The authors identified several weaknesses in the study and so did not conclusively say that exposure to green space is responsible for the observed reduction in health inequalities.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: An article in the UK’s Independent newspaper put this important finding succinctly: Life near a city park can be as healthy as out in the country.
There’s a new walkability index that’s a useful test to take: find it at Walkscore. By typing in your address, you will yield a score that runs from “worst” to “best.” Suffice it to say if you live in Manhattan or Boston or Williamsburg, VA, you’re very walkable. If you’re in the suburbs and need a car to go everywhere, go find some green space, and fast!
While Mitchell and Popham won’t write with 100% certainty that access to green space leads to better health outcomes…go take a walk, anyway, wherever you are. Like chicken soup for a cold and a positive attitude and social network…it couldn’t hurt!
For more on this important topic, see Health Populi’s analysis of Swimming Pools and Supermarkets-a recipe for health.