The health gap between richer and poorer residents is halved in
areas with access to green space such as parks, river corridors
and playing fields
according to new research.
were clearly linked to levels of exposure to green space in this
large scale study. The researchers investigated records on more
than 360,000 deaths from all causes in
, in the period 2001-2005. Deaths among those above
retirement age (60 for women and 65 for men) were excluded.
Income-related deprivation and access to green space was assessed
via area of residence. Access was defined as the proportion of
green space in a resident's local area, excluding gardens, and
income was stratified into quartiles, with the study concentrating
on income quartiles 2 - 4 (middle income to lowest income groups).
The results revealed links between levels of income and the
degree of exposure to green space in relation to deaths from all
causes. The link was particularly strong for deaths from
circulatory diseases, such as
heart disease. In the 20 per cent of the population with
the greatest exposure to green space, an estimated 1328 lives
were saved per year in the three income groups that form the
focus of this study when compared with the 20 per cent of the
population in the same income groups but with the least exposure
to green space.
According to the researchers, green spaces benefit health by
encouraging local residents to undertake physical activities,
such as walking or sports. There is also evidence that being in
green environments can reduce
and relieve stress. While not everyone has equal access to green
spaces, those who do have access tend to use them, regardless of
The study demonstrates that substantial differences in health
inequality can exist between populations who are exposed to the
same welfare state, health service and
distribution, but who live in different types of physical
The authors conclude that physical environments that promote
good health could be crucial in the fight to reduce
socioeconomic health inequalities and that this should be taken
into account when planning urban areas in the future.