Objectives: The aim of this population-based study was to investigate associations between recreational values of the close natural environment and neighbourhood satisfaction, physical activity, obesity and wellbeing.
Methods: Data from a large public health survey distributed as a mailed questionnaire in suburban and rural areas of southern Sweden were used (N = 24 819; 59% participation rate). Geocoded residential addresses and the geographical information system technique were used to assess objectively five recreational values of the close natural environment: serene, wild, lush, spacious and culture.
Results: On average, a citizen of the Scania region, inner city areas excluded, only had access to 0.67 recreational values within 300 metres distance from their residence. The number of recreational values near the residence was strongly associated with neighbourhood satisfaction and physical activity. The effect on satisfaction was especially marked among tenants and the presence of recreational values was associated with low or normal body mass index in this group. A less marked positive association with vitality among women was observed. No evident effect on self-rated health was detectable.
Conclusions: Immediate access to natural environments with high recreational values was rare in the study population and was distributed in an inequitable manner. Moreover, such access was associated with a positive assessment of neighbourhood satisfaction and time spent on physical activity, which can be expected to reduce obesity and increase vitality by having a buffering effect on stress.
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Competing interests: None declared.