Mitigating Stress and Supporting Health in Deprived Urban Communities: The Importance of Green Space and the Social Environment

Environment-health research has shown significant relationships between the quantity of green space in deprived urban neighbourhoods and people’s stress levels. The focus of this paper is the nature of access to green space (i.e., its quantity or use) necessary before any health benefit is found. It draws on a cross-sectional survey of 406 adults in four communities of high urban deprivation in Scotland, United Kingdom. Self-reported measures of stress and general health were primary outcomes; physical activity and social wellbeing were also measured. A comprehensive, objective measure of green space quantity around each participant’s home was also used, alongside self-report measures of use of local green space. Correlated Component Regression identified the optimal predictors for primary outcome variables in the different communities surveyed. Social isolation and place belonging were the strongest predictors of stress in three out of four communities sampled, and of poor general health in the fourth, least healthy, community. The amount of green space in the neighbourhood, and in particular access to a garden or allotment, were significant predictors of stress. Physical activity, frequency of visits to green space in winter months, and views from the home were predictors of general health. The findings have implications for public health and for planning of green infrastructure, gardens and public open space in urban environments.

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