The health benefits of urban green spaces: A review of the evidence

Section of Public Health, School of Health and Related Research, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK.
Journal of Public Health (Impact Factor: 2.04). 06/2011; 33(2):212-22. DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdq068
Source: PubMed


Urban development projects can be costly and have health impacts. An evidence-based approach to urban planning is therefore essential. However, the evidence for physical and non-physical health benefits of urban green space is unclear.
A literature search of academic and grey literature was conducted for studies and reviews of the health effects of green space. Articles found were appraised for their relevance, critically reviewed and graded accordingly. Their findings were then thematically categorized.
There is weak evidence for the links between physical, mental health and well-being, and urban green space. Environmental factors such as the quality and accessibility of green space affects its use for physical activity. User determinants, such as age, gender, ethnicity and the perception of safety, are also important. However, many studies were limited by poor study design, failure to exclude confounding, bias or reverse causality and weak statistical associations.
Most studies reported findings that generally supported the view that green space have a beneficial health effect. Establishing a causal relationship is difficult, as the relationship is complex. Simplistic urban interventions may therefore fail to address the underlying determinants of urban health that are not remediable by landscape redesign.

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Available from: Andrew CK Lee, Jul 28, 2014
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    • "For example, recognition of the relationship between urban form and frequency of walking and bicycling (Frank and Engelkel, 2001; Saelens et al., 2003) has implications for urban design, transportation systems (Lee and Vernez Moudon, 2004), recreation facilities, and public health policy (Sallis et al., 2006). The health benefits of accessible green spaces is widely acknowledged, however, prospective studies that measure the impact that specific built environment changes have on population physical activity are lacking (Lee and Maheswaran, 2011). The renovation of an urban park in a refugee community in Denver led to a statistically significant increase in the number of park users and a statistical increase in the proportion of park users engaged in moderate and vigorous activities. "
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    ABSTRACT: Community parks have achieved recognition as a public health intervention to promote physical activity. This study evaluated changes in population-level physical activity when an undeveloped green space adjacent to transitional housing for refugees was transformed into a recreational park. A prospective, nonrandomized study design used the System of Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) to document the number and activity levels of park users over time, and to compare trends pre-and post-construction. T-tests or tests of medians (when appropriate) were used to compare pre-and post-construction changes in use of non-park and park zones for physical activity and changes in park use by age and gender. Pre-and post-comparisons of people observed using non-park zones (i.e., adjacent streets, alleys and parking lots) and park zones indicated a 38% decrease in energy expended in non-park zones and a 3-fold increase in energy expended within the park (P = 0.002). The majority of park users pre-and post-construction were children, however the proportion of adolescent males observed in vigorous activity increased from 11% to 38% (P = 0.007). Adolescent females and elderly continued to be under-represented in the park. Our findings support an association between creation of accessible outdoor spaces for recreation and improvements in physical activity. Community involvement in park design assured that features included in the park space matched the needs and desires of the communities served. Some demographic groups were still under-represented within the park, suggesting a need to develop targeted outreach strategies and programming.
    Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 12/2015; 14(2):293-299. DOI:10.1016/j.ufug.2015.02.011 · 2.11 Impact Factor
    • "Residents living near greened vacant land perceive it to be significantly safer than do people living close to untreated, often unkempt, vacant urban land (Garvin et al., 2012). However, with few exceptions, most studies addressing the relationship between green space and crime have been cross-sectional, and provide limited evidence of causal effects (Lee and Maheswaran, 2011). One exception, a quasi-experimental study in Philadelphia, found that greening remediation of vacant lots was associated with reduced gun assaults and vandalism, as well as improved health indicators such as less stress and more exercise (Branas et al., 2011). "
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    • "Cumulative exposure to several pollutants enhances toxicity of the air. Green plants are known for their role in attenuation of certain air pollutants and are widely recommended in the form of green belts and urban green spaces for air pollution mitigation (De Ridder et al., 2004; Lee and Maheswaran, 2011; Rao et al., 2004; Takano et al., 2002). Air Pollution Tolerance Index (APTI) is used to evaluate the susceptibility or resistance level of plants for air pollutants. "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of the present study was to examine Air Pollution Tolerance Index (APTI) of some climber plant species to develop vertical gardens in Varanasi city which has characteristics of tall building and narrow roads. This condition results in street canyon like structure and hinders the vertical dispersal of air pollutants. We have selected 24 climber plant species which are commonly found in of Varanasi city. Chosen plants can be easily grown either in planter boxes or directly in the ground, with a vertical support they can climb on walls to form green walls or vertical garden. Air Pollution Tolerance Index (APTI) of the selected plant species was calculated and plants with higher APTI are recommended for the development of Vertical garden. Highest APTI was noted for Ipomoea palmata (25.39) followed by Aristolochia elegans (23.28), Thunbergia grandiflora (23.14), Quisqualis indica (22.42), and Clerodendrum splendens (22.36). However, lowest APTI value (8.75) was recorded for the species Hemidesmus indicus. Moreover, the linear regression analysis has revealed a high positive correlation between APTI and ascorbic acid content (R(2)=0.8837) and positive correlation between APTI and Chlorophyll content (R(2)=0.6687). On the basis of higher APTI values (greater than 17), nine species of climber plants viz. I. palmata, T. grandiflora, C. splendens, A. elegans, Q. indica, Petria volubilis, Antigonon leptopus, Cryptolepis buchuanni and Tinospora cordifolia have been recommended to develop vertical greenery systems in a compact tropical city.
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