Communities with better access & density of green spaces reliably produce healthier, happier, more productive residents who rely less on public health services. When properly designed and maintained, they can reduce reports of crime, and provide the extended benefits of reducing air pollution, noise pollution, and cooling communities significantly in summer
If, like many of us, you were lucky enough to have access to green spaces & parks during your Coronavirus isolation, you might have developed a greater appreciation for them, but you might still be surprised to discover the scope and scale of public health benefits research into urban green space has uncovered.
1. Improved Mental Health Outcomes
Significant evidence exists that contact with nature may protect against health problems related to chronic stress. Walks taken in natural environments produce better short-term stress reduction than their urban counterparts and can reduce blood pressure more significantly. Greener homes and communities have been associated with improved cognitive development & performance in schoolchildren, as well as lower levels of depression and anxiety in community residents in general.
2. Better Immune Function
Exposure to diverse natural environments early in life can reduce chances of developing allergic sensitivity. Residential areas with greater tree quantities are associated with lower levels of asthma in their residents, and there is some evidence that the body produces cancer fighting cells in higher levels when exposed to natural landscapes. People living in residential areas with more green space can also expect better pregnancy outcomes, and increased life-spans in the elderly.
3. Physical Health & Reduced Morbidity & Mortality
Numerous studies have demonstrated that areas with better green space access are associated with reduced sedentary time and increased activity. The knock-on effects of physical activity are well documented, but recent evidence suggests that physical activity in green space is actually more beneficial than in non-natural ones. Increased physical activity is shown to improve cardiovascular and mental health, prevent cancer, obesity & osteoporosis.
It is often the case that low-income communities have less green space, but research has suggested that the health benefits associated with green space might actually be the strongest among these groups. In other words, health inequality goes down significantly in poorer areas when greater access to green-space is provided.
4. Social Cohesion & Community-Mindedness
Green space can improve the strength of communities by encouraging social interaction. The quantity and the quality of greenery have been linked with improved social cohesion at a neighborhood scale. There is also evidence to suggest public greenspaces have a relationship with crime rates, and that the proper design & maintenance of these spaces can significantly reduce violent crime. Carefully designed parks can make people feel safer, happier & more at home in their communities.
5. Cooling & Energy Efficiency
Besides the possibility that green spaces can encourage greener ways of commuting & local travel, suburbs in WA with reduced canopy cover can be up to six degrees hotter than their high cover counterparts in summer. Suburbs with less greenery might therefore expect to spend more on cooling their homes and experience more heat related health problems among those without or with limited access to cooling.
Research continues to show how cost effective and beneficial investing in green space from a public planning perspective can be. Well designed & maintained public parks and tree-dense streets are an investment in the future of our communities, their safety, and the health, happiness and productivity of their citizens.
If you’d like to hear more about the implementation of green-space based initiatives in your community or obtain a Capability Statement, please contact Robin Burnage, Consultancy Principal at TDL, on 9441 0200.