The James Hutton Institute has published a report about the contribution of green and open space to public health and wellbeing. The report which has been produced with partners University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, Heriot Watt University, and Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, presents the findings of the GREENHEALTH project.

This project explored the relationship between green spaces in urban areas and human health using a range of methods and approaches. An overview of the main findings was reported as:

  • There was no evidence of a relationship between the amount of green space in urban neighbourhoods and mortality and various measures of morbidity. The exception was men living in deprived urban areas where higher amounts of local green space were associated with a lower risk of mortality.
  • For those who did use green spaces for physical activity, no relationship was found between obesity and self-reported cardiovascular or respiratory health. However, levels of c-reactive protein (a marker of inflammatory response in the body) were lower in men living in urban areas who regularly used green space for physical activity than those who did not.
  • There was no relationship between the amount of green space in urban neighbourhoods and mental health and wellbeing. However, urban dwellers who used green space such as woods and forests for physical activity had a lower risk of poor mental health than non-users of these types of green spaces. Regular use of woods and forests appeared to be more protective of mental health than exercising in the gym or streets.
  • In three deprived urban areas in Edinburgh and Dundee (total sample 300), levels of self-perceived stress were found to be associated with the amount of green space within deprived urban neighbourhoods. However, the strength and direction of relationships varied by gender.
  • In the deprived urban communities, more green space was associated with lower levels of stress as evidenced by salivary cortisol patterns for a sample of middle-aged men and women not in work. More green space has a greater effect on cortisol concentrations in women than in men in these groups.
  • Individuals and social groups attach different meanings to green space, and experience differing wellbeing benefits. For most people social interaction is significant in using local green space.
  • Larger urban green spaces provide multiple functions for communities of place, and communities of interest; smaller areas of green space provide important spaces for short periods outdoors. There is significant community interest in involvement in decision-making about local green spaces.
  • Ensuring the visibility of green space can make a significant difference to the interpretation of accessibility.

The full report can be downloaded here, along with separate information notes for key findings by topic.