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J Epidemiol Community Health 60:587-592 doi:10.1136/jech.2005.043125
  • Evidence based public health policy and practice

Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation?

  1. Jolanda Maas1,
  2. Robert A Verheij1,
  3. Peter P Groenewegen1,
  4. Sjerp de Vries2,
  5. Peter Spreeuwenberg1
  1. 1NIVEL (Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research), Utrecht, Netherlands
  2. 2Alterra, Wageningen, Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 MsJ Maas
 NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, PO Box 1568, 3500 BN Utrecht, Netherlands; j.maas{at}nivel.nl
  • Accepted 16 January 2006

Abstract

Study objectives: To investigate the strength of the relation between the amount of green space in people’s living environment and their perceived general health. This relation is analysed for different age and socioeconomic groups. Furthermore, it is analysed separately for urban and more rural areas, because the strength of the relation was expected to vary with urbanity.

Design: The study includes 250 782 people registered with 104 general practices who filled in a self administered form on sociodemographic background and perceived general health. The percentage of green space (urban green space, agricultural space, natural green space) within a one kilometre and three kilometre radius around the postal code coordinates was calculated for each household.

Methods: Multilevel logistic regression analyses were performed at three levels—that is, individual level, family level, and practice level—controlled for sociodemographic characteristics.

Main results: The percentage of green space inside a one kilometre and a three kilometre radius had a significant relation to perceived general health. The relation was generally present at all degrees of urbanity. The overall relation is somewhat stronger for lower socioeconomic groups. Elderly, youth, and secondary educated people in large cities seem to benefit more from presence of green areas in their living environment than other groups in large cities.

Conclusions: This research shows that the percentage of green space in people’s living environment has a positive association with the perceived general health of residents. Green space seems to be more than just a luxury and consequently the development of green space should be allocated a more central position in spatial planning policy.

Footnotes

  • Funding: this study was supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.