Statins and Greenspaces: Health and the Urban Environment


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Statins and Greenspaces: Health and the Urban Environment

  1. 1. ‘Statins and Greenspaces’:Health and the UrbanEnvironmentProceedings of a conference held by the UK-MAB Urban Forumat University College London (UCL)Edited by Gerald Dawe and Alison Millward Jointly organised by: and UCL Environment Institute May 2008With the support of: NATURAL Cyngor Cefn Gwlad CymruCountryside Council for Wales ENGLAND
  2. 2. ‘Statins and Greenspaces’Statins are a class of drugs usedto lower cholesterol levels inpeople at risk of heart disease.They contrast usefully with therelatively ‘non-technical’ butnonetheless complex, notion of‘green’ open spaces.
  3. 3. Executive SummaryThis conference looked at the health- Some public open spaces were actuallypromoting potential of urban green open avoided by significant groups in society.spaces from different perspectives, andincluded two panel sessions. It asked the J Evidence for the psychological and mentalquestion: ‘why is greenspace not more readily health benefits of urban open space wasprescribed by doctors, given the evidence that considerable, though people couldit is good for health?’. Topic areas included: sometimes react negatively to exposure to nature, concluded Ian Douglas. The multi-J Accessibility, privacy and security of open functional nature of urban greenspace can space in relation to lifestyle secure positive health benefits for all,J Psychological and mental health benefits though it was impossible to provide a of urban open space single plan for fostering nature for health,J Health inequalities, environmental justice because of widely differing cultural and and open space socio-economic situations.J The use of plants and animals in open spaces in relation to health J ‘Majority world’ perspectives showed thatJ Health and forested open spaces in urban severe and high mortality rates in, e.g., and urban fringe areas Latin America, precluded green spacesJ A case-study of one open space and its simply being used for passive recreation. psychological and mental health benefits Here, political movements around from the users’ point of view environmental justice and practicalJ Interaction between green open spaces, sustainability were needed much more, as health and medicine: the communication a means of achieving a more equitable issues which needed dealing with, to make distribution of urban greenspace, which in effective connections turn, might achieve better healthJ Quantitative relationships between connections. Carolyn Stephens made links greenspaces and community health: does between health, the nature of what was one necessarily follow the other? grown on urban open spaces, and macro-J Two other factors came to the fore: (1) economics. She concluded that the notion contrasts between Western world and of green spaces as ‘peacemakers’, or as ‘majority world’ perspectives; and (2) the agents of social cohesion, was something relative value of scientific evidence, in underappreciated from a Western relation to socio-political concepts such as perspective. environmental justice, sustainability, and inspiration J The obvious and complete reliance of many people in the majority world on foodFindings from the contributors were as crops grown on urban or peri-urban sitesfollows: was described by Monique Simmonds. The notion of ‘biodiversity’, again viewed fromJ Individual lifestyle, personal values and the Western world viewpoint, tended to be the feeling for integration within the far removed from the actual biological community were at the heart of accessing nature and valuable properties of the urban open space, explained Russell Jones. plants themselves. Whilst tools such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) could reveal The first panel discussion followed on from the apparent amount of open space, this this and there was commentary on was not accessible open space in reality. connections and disconnections from nature,UK-MAB Urban Forum 1
  4. 4. and of both how useful and how limited The second panel session explored areas ofscience was in being able to analyse ‘health’ ‘biodiverse’ open spaces, and the fact thatand ‘environment’ connections holistically. there were many contradictions around accessing it for health reasons. Some peopleJ Projects involving the Forestry were receptive to nature, whilst others were Commission and links between health and —unfortunately— repelled by it. urban greenspace were reviewed by Liz O’Brien. To ensure effective outputs strong Conclusions emerging from the papers links had been established, from the start, emphasised the function of greenspaces as with regional Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). drivers for ‘peace making’ and community The variety and scale of individuals and cohesion, as well as the personal benefits to groups which the Forestry Commission individual mental health from participation had been involved with was valuable and in co-ordinated gardening work. These were also, integral to the success of the work. in addition to more conventional gains to physical and mental health, as identified fromJ The ‘Meanwhile Gardens’ site in London, previous papers. Aside from these benefits about which a DVD has recently been accruing from greenspaces, important made, and was shown to the conference, messages emerged regarding the practicalities was reviewed by Ambra Burls. This, and of i) how to communicate health benefits work Ambra had carried out previously, from involvement in greenspace, and ii) how showed how open spaces can not only to organise successful public involvement grow plants, but can also help develop with greenspaces. The former requires people, and improve their mental health. speaking a language which doctors and PCT Some of the gardeners reported back on administrators can understand and their growing sense of self-esteem as a combining it with the practicalities of result of being involved with the project. medical cost-benefit analyses. The latter requires solid partnership working from theJ The challenges of placing health and outset. One of the subtleties emphasised was greenspaces into a currency which policy- that ‘greenspace’ involvement should not be makers can understand was the important ‘prescribed’ to ‘patients’, but rather, people theme dealt with by William Bird and need to find more positive ways of engaging Huw Davies. A central part of this was, with it, and also, with broader levels of they argued, engaging both with PCTs and nature and the environment. Public Service Agreements (PSA). The practical importance of using health statistics, and relating these to economic savings which could be achieved by getting patients to use green spaces, was also emphasised.J Further insights using GIS, into how good health and the percentage of apparently accessible greenspace did not always coincide were given by Pete Dixon. One of his conclusions was that the ‘health- environmental quality’ concept can be used, with care, in helping to define ‘Environmental Action Areas’, and even ‘Economic Growth Areas’.UK-MAB Urban Forum 2
  5. 5. ContentsIntroduction Gerald Dawe and Alison Millward ......................................................................5More than just a park: choice, individualism and risk perception ...............................................7in two contrasting areas of Glasgow by Russell Jones,Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH)and Clyde Valley Greenspace NetworkPsychological and mental health benefits from nature .............................................................12and urban greenspace by Ian Douglas,University of ManchesterHealth inequalities, the majority world and urban ...................................................................23environmental justice by Carolyn Stephens,London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineBiodiversity and health by Monique Simmonds ......................................................................26PANEL SESSION ONE: Chaired by Pete Frost ....................................................................29Policy to practice: health and well-being projects ....................................................................31in the Forestry Commission by Helen Townsendand Liz O’Brien Forestry CommissionMeanwhile Wildlife Gardens, with nature in mind (DVD presentation) ....................................36by Ambra BurlsThe natural environment: our natural health service ................................................................40by William Bird and Huw Davies, Natural EnglandMapping community health in relation to urban greenspace ....................................................44by Pete Dixon, TEP ConsultantsPANEL SESSION TWO: Chaired by Alison Millward ..........................................................49Summing Up by Peter Shirley .................................................................................................50Conclusions and Next Steps ....................................................................................................52Appendix: Membership of UK-MAB Urban Forum.................................................................55UK-MAB Urban Forum 3
  6. 6. UK-MAB Urban Forum 4
  7. 7. IntroductionThis meeting held on the 27th March 2007 had Aesethetic and visual pleasures:been planned by the Urban Forum for some time. These range from the pleasure of ‘chaos’ inThis was an attempt to bring together nature (Gleick, 1993) which may, according topractitioners from the two fields: ‘health’ and some, approximate to Immanuel Kant’s‘greenspace’ into an arena where differences and sublime (Richards, 2001), to broader mentalconnections could be easily discussed. The Forum health and psychological benefits from greenfelt that common ground between health spaces (Guite, Clark and Ackrill, 2006).professionals and greenspace managers had not Subtleties of ‘favourite natural places’ mayyet been converted into action and, perhaps include their ability to induce positive moodsomewhat idealistically, into medical changes and reduce negative feelings or stressprescriptions for ‘greenspace’. (Korpela and Ylén, 2007).Three questions have been frequently posed by Cementing community cohesion:members of the Forum: Open spaces can ‘bring people together’ (Armstrong, 2000), encourage social (1) if green open space is, as all the evidence interaction and give people broader mental indicates, good for us, why is it not readily health and psychological benefits (Burls, ‘prescribed’ by doctors as at least a partial 2007a, 2007b) solution for a wide range of ailments? (2) what is the relationship between access to Relief from disease: biodiversity and health? Here, benefits mainly mainly arise from (3) how do greenspace practitioners find physical exercise (per se, as well as in common ground with health practitioners? combination with open spaces) and the recovery or rehabilitation from diseases. TheseThese questions were explored in for us by include heart disease (Taylor, 2000) and also,Professor Ian Douglas’s reviews on both mental obesity (Nielsen and Hansen, 2007).and psychological health (see pages 12-22), andphysical health (forthcoming). The conference Longevity relationships:was a useful space in which complementary areas A few studies have shown how physicalcould be expanded on, and move a little towards contact with open spaces can actuallybeing resolved. encourage greater longevity (Takano, Nakamura and Watanabe, 2002, though seeThere are a myriad series of interactions between also criticism by Adams and White, 2003).green open spaces and human health (Sanesi etal., 2006), and the possibility of gaining health From a wider perspective, green spaces obviouslybenefits is inevitably influenced by socio- can provide everything from economic well-being,economic status, or ‘social capital’ in both food supplies, and other necessities of life, andindirect and direct ways (Sooman and Macintyre, thereby can, at minimum, be regarded as1995, Sundquist and Yang, 2007, Winkler, Turrell ‘therapeutic landscapes’ (Conradson, 2005,and Patterson, 2006), together with gender and Gesler, 2005, Milligan, Gatrell and Bingley,age. The relationship has been investigated for 2004). Integration of both health, plus ‘greenwomen (Krenichyn, 2006) and children with infrastructure’ and ‘eco-therapy’ concerns in suchregard to open spaces and/or environment landscapes is now an increasingly common theme(Arneson, 2006). (Burls, 2007a, 2007b, Tzoulas et al., 2007).Some of the benefits which may occur from There are also policy issues around the equitablecontact with green open spaces are: distribution of open spaces for better healthUK-MAB Urban Forum 5
  8. 8. (Timperio et al., 2007). As a consequence, Sanesi, G., Lafortezza, R., Bonnes, M., Carrus, G.(2006). Comparison of two different approaches for assessingenvironmental justice (Buzzelli and Veenstra, the psychological and social dimensions of green spaces.2007) sustainability and related political areas Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 5, 121–129.(Richmond et al., 2005) are increasingly urgent Sooman, A. and Macintyre, S.(1995). Health and perceptions of the local environment in sociallyconcepts which determine, at least in part, contrasting neighbourhoods in Glasgow. Health & Place,peoples’ access to green open spaces. 1(1), 15-26. Sundquist, K. and Yang, M.(2007). Linking social capital and self-rated health: a multilevel analysis of 11,175 menGerald Dawe and Alison Millward and women in Sweden. Health & Place, 13, 324–334. Takano, T., Nakamura, K. and Watanabe, M.(2002). Urban residential environments and senior citizens’ longevity in megacity areas: the importance of walkable green spaces.References Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 56, 913- 918.Adams, J. and White, M.(2003). Health benefits of green Taylor, A.(2000). The effects of exercise training on patients spaces not confirmed. Journal of Epidemiology and with chronic heart failure. Coronary Health Care Community Health, 57, 312. 4, 10–16.Arneson, S.J.(2006). Environmental health information Timperio, A., Ball, K., Salmon, J., Roberts, R. and resources: healthy environments for healthy women and Crawford, D.(2007). Is availability of public open space children. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 51(1), equitable across areas? Health & Place, 13, 335–340. 35-38. Tzoulas, K., Korpela, K., Venn, S., Yli-Pelkonen, V.,Armstrong, D.(2000). A survey of community gardens in Kaz ´mierczak, A., Niemela, J. and James, P.(2007). upstate New York: implications for health promotion Promoting ecosystem and human health in urban areas and community development. Health & Place, 6, 319- using green infrastructure: a literature review. Landscape 327. and Urban Planning, 81(3), 167-178.Burls, A.(2007a). People and green spaces: promoting public Winkler, E., Turrell, G. and Patterson, C.(2006). Does living health and mental well-being through ecotherapy. in a disadvantaged area entail limited opportunities to Journal of Public Mental Health, 6(3), 24-39. purchase fresh fruit and vegetables in terms of price,Burls, A.(2007b). Ecotherapy: a therapeutic and educative availability, and variety? Findings from the Brisbane model. Journal of Mediterranean Ecology, 8, 19-25. Food Study. Health & Place, 12, 741–748.Buzzelli, M. and Veenstra, G.(2007). Editorial: New approaches to researching environmental justice: Combining critical theory, population health and Acknowledgements geographical information science (GIS). Health & Place, 13, 1–2. Gratitude is due to all of our speakers and toConradson, D.(2005). Landscape, care and the relational self: Therapeutic encounters in rural England. Health & Members of the UK-MAB Urban Forum, Place, 11, 337–348. especially to the welcome encouragement of PeteGesler, W.(2005). Therapeutic landscapes: an evolving theme. Health & Place, 11, 295–297. Frost, Ian Douglas and David Goode, for helpingGleick, J.(1993). Nature’s Chaos. Little Brown and Co., UK. inspire the meeting. Mark Maslin, the Director of ISBN 0-7474-0759-2. 125 pp. UCL Environment Institute, also kindly hostedGuite, H.F., Clark, C. and Ackrill, G.(2006). The impact of the physical and urban environment on mental well- this inter-disciplinary meeting, and David Goode being. Public Health, 120, 1117–1126. generously arranged the space for us at UCL.Korpela, K.M. and Ylén, M.(2007). Perceived health is associated with visiting natural favourite places in the vicinity. Health & Place, 13, 138–151. On the administrative side, we also thank ourKrenichyn, K.(2006). ‘The only place to go and be in the Secretary, Nick Jackson for helping to achieve the city’: women talk about exercise, being outdoors, and the meanings of a large urban park. Health & Place, 12, smooth running of the conference. Finally, Dana 631–643 Pridie-Sale, Manager of the UCL EnvironmentMilligan, C., Gatrell, A. and Bingley, A.(2004). ‘Cultivating health’:therapeutic landscapes and older people in Institute is also thanked for her help. northern England. Social Science & Medicine, 58, 1781– 1793. Note on CopyrightNielsen, T.S. and Hansen, K.B.(2007). Do green areas affect health? Results from a Danish survey on the use of green areas and health indicators. Health & Place, 13(4), 839- This document may be freely copied and also, 850. downloaded from the internetRichards, R.(2001). A new aesthetic for environmental awareness: chaos theory, the beauty of nature, and our (see However broader humanistic identity. Journal of Humanistic acknowledgement of any material reproduced Psychology, 41(2), 59-95. elsewhere would be appreciated. The coverRichmond, C., Elliott, S.J., Matthews, R. and Elliott, B.(2005). The political ecology of health: perceptions of illustration and other full-page illustrations are environment, economy, health and well-being among copyright Gillian Clements, 2008. ‘Namgis First Nation. Health & Place, 11, 349–365.UK-MAB Urban Forum 6
  9. 9. More than just a park: choice, individualism and risk perception in two contrasting areas ofGlasgow by Russell Jones, Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) and Clyde ValleyGreenspace NetworkGlasgow Centre for Population Health, Level 6, 39 St Vincent Place, Glasgow G1 2ER.Tel: 0141 221 9439 E-mail: indicate that both the actual and perceived quality of certain characteristics of the local environment, e.g. housing,playgrounds, parks and transport, are linked with both physical and mental health. Evidence consistently shows thataccessible and safe urban greenspaces have a positive influence on levels of physical activity, as well as enhancing individuals’sense of well-being by providing opportunities for engagement with nature and an opportunity for social interaction. Moststudies, however, employ a single research method, the majority using either surveys or GIS mapping, with very fewqualitative studies that explore the complex relationships between individuals and their neighbourhoods and subjectiveexperiences of urban greenspace.The FAB Greenspace study uses a mixed method approach to explore in-depth the facilitators and barriers to the use ofgreenspace in two contrasting areas of Glasgow. The methods include GIS mapping, quality assessment, analysis of surveydata, and qualitative techniques such as in-depth interviews, participatory appraisal and participants’ photographs of theirlocal area. This presentation will first describe the study, then go on to present some of the findings from each method. Thefocus of the latter part of the presentation is on the qualitative results which looks at how park usage competes with otherforms of leisure that are either perceived to offer less risk or are better suited to increasingly individualised lifestyles. Thefindings also support other evidence that the level of community integration can mediate perceptions of risk in public space.Introduction GIS does not really assess quality or whether greenspace is in public or private ownership, andThere is a lot of research on access to urban cannot assess its quality in terms of biodiversitygreenspace. Three of these centre on urban health and / or public access or usage of the space.including the GOAL (Glasgow Outcome,Activated protein C (APC) resistance and Lipid Aims and Methodology(GOAL) pregnancy) longitudinal study. However,in general they have mostly used Geographical The GCPH set out to do qualitative work onInformation Systems (GIS). There has been very open space access in the north and south of thelittle qualitative assessment. Therefore, the Glasgow region, by means of involvingGlasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) participative groups of individuals and interviewdeveloped the FAB (Facilitators And Barriers) work. The objectives were to see how greenspaceapproach. was perceived by local people, how it was defined, and how it was used. Accessibility judged byThe FAB Greenspace Study consists of the using GIS alone would not have evaluated this.following partners: Methods included:J Glasgow Centre for Population HealthJ NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde J GIS MappingJ MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit J Quality assessment (audit) (‘Assessing Space’)J Glasgow City Council J Survey data analysisJ Glasgow and Clyde Valley (GCV) Structure J 6 discussion groups Plan Team J 26 in-depth interviews J PhotographsGlasgow and the Clyde Valley has a very localand detailed level mapping of greenspace. Thesouth Glasgow region is in general a moredeprived area, and the north is more affluent.UK-MAB Urban Forum 7
  10. 10. Greater Glasgow NHS Board: North West locality Greater Glasgow NHS Board: South West localityUK-MAB Urban Forum 8
  11. 11. Results and Case Studies Qualitative studiesQuantitative studiesGIS mapping of the greenspaces within access ofthe two research populations revealed that thepopulation in the south had slightly greateraccess, although this part of Glasgow would beconsidered to be more deprived than the northarea. Access to Greenspace (300 metres from greenspace > 2 hectares)The Assessing Space audits that were undertakenby independent assessors as well as thegreenspace users, revealed that there was:J Wide variation in quality of green open spaces within both areas (North West and South West)J Most would benefit from lighting, seating and increased maintenanceJ Often there is a difference in quality inside and outside leisure facilities and community hallsJ Many were not friendly, welcoming or sociableSome preliminary findings from health surveyinformation revealed that:J More male obesity in North than South, but this pattern is reversed for femalesJ People in North are more likely to be Some of the results of community input physically active outsideJ Outside physical activity is associated with perceived burglary levelsUK-MAB Urban Forum 9
  12. 12. Findings J Felt at odds with society around him - lack of respectJ Facilitators and barriers – were not J Facilitators and barriers conspired such that experienced universally he opted to use a local private bowling clubJ “Fixing the park” approach may not attract over local council facilities everybodyJ At the individual level a complex interplay of Case study 3: Father, North. A ‘middle-class’ lifestyle factors, opportunities and values family. Here, a man was more confident, and he affects park usage went to a skate park with his children. This gave him a different, more positive perspective onThe lifestyle of individuals, the values they held, young people. He did not regard them as aand the more integrated they felt within their problem, but simply as bored people, without ancommunity, were the most important predictors outlet for their activity. He:in how people would use greenspace. This is bestillustrated by some case studies: J Valued variety and diversity in his community and was happy for parks to reflect thisCase study 1: Migrant mother with young family, J Valued being with child-centred andSouth: Here, a woman had experienced racism community-minded people but also liked towhich put her off from using her local get away from the crowdgreenspace. So, instead of using the local park, J Had a lifestyle that was time poor and withshe used a community café with a small garden tastes outside the mainstream e.g. yogaarea, with a clientele she felt more comfortable J Was stoical of anti-social behaviour andwith and where her children could run about with looked for the underlying reasonsease and in safety. For this woman: J Used the park individually and as a familyJ Parks were perceived as providing a valuable resource for her children, but she experienced The young people interviewed, who wereJ Poor access to all but the most local green frequently feared by other age groups, were also spaces (low quality) fearful of their contemporaries. This finding raised the notion of who exactly was fearful ofJ She sought opportunities to talk to other who within a park and how different aged user parents groups could be encouraged to become moreJ Integration within her local community was familiar with each other, perhaps through low and she was fearful of anti-social organized whole community based creative behaviour or racism activities (e.g. fairs and community gardens), toJ Facilitators and barriers conspired against reduce this barrier. park usageJ Alternative locations were sought - community The people in the north of the city wanted to see café physical changes to their parks primarily, whereas people from the south wanted to see action toCase study 2: Male Old Age Pensioner (OAP), tackle the anti-social behaviour and racism theyNorth: An elderly man felt that young or encountered in their parks.adolescent people were a threat, and he felt muchsafer in a private bowling club. He: ConclusionJ Sought opportunities to socialise and exercise There is a complex interaction of factors that with people his own age determine whether or not an individual will make use of a greenspace. These include:J Felt vulnerable as an OAP who had been a Parks themselves victim of crimeUK-MAB Urban Forum 10
  13. 13. J Quality J Quality green space is necessary, but notJ Safety sufficient to encourage useJ Things to do J People choose the ways they want to spendJ Litter/cleanliness their free time within constraints and willJ Litter/graffiti linked with safety decide whether the local park fits in with thatLifestyle J Creative activities can encourage useJ Structures, opportunity and accessJ combination of choice and constraints J Parks need to be well connected with the local community (socially and not just spatially)ValuesJ outdoor leisure versus shopping Next, the results and conclusions of this workJ Integration within local community – fear of will be disseminated by: racism or anti-social behaviourJ Stoicism versus fear • combining data from all sources into a written report • Traditional dissemination via a report,The intersection of influential factors: executive summary, seminar and website • Creative dissemination via Glasgow School of Art and the engagement of planners, park officials and communities Factors interact to determine park usageAccess and use of greenspace is all to do withlifestyle as well as the quality of the greenspacesthemselves. Significantly, quality parks and otherpublicly accessible greenspaces were not alwaysused.To sum up:J It is just about quality of green space, it is about lifestyle, values, access and level of integration within the local communityUK-MAB Urban Forum 11
  14. 14. Psychological and mental health benefits from nature and urban greenspace by Ian Douglas,Emeritus Professor, University of ManchesterGeography, School of Environment and Development, The University of Manchester,Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK. Tel: 0161 275 3642. is good scientific evidence that contact with nature in urban areas can improve mental health and can help in therestoration of psychological well-being. This evidence is of four kinds: i) the outcomes of experiments in which subjects havebeen tested in contrasting situations; ii) the findings of studies that used photographs and videos of natural environments totest people’s reactions; iii) the results of attitudinal surveys, both quantitative and qualitative, in which people are askedabout their preferences and experiences; and iv) the use of national or regional health data sets. It is strong enough to makethe case for the inclusion of areas of natural vegetation in both urban planning, particularly for the expansion of existingtowns and the creation of new urban settlements, as planned in the Thames Gateway area of the United Kingdom. Suchareas need to be strategically located to give accessibility to both the young and older people likely to use them and toprovide for different types of enjoyment, from dog-walking and jogging to bird-watching and environmental education.Public participation in the planning and management of such areas, especially through interaction and consultation withlocal communities, will enhance their value and will help to reduce vandalism and other forms of misuse.Nevertheless, the experimental, survey and quantitative scientific evidence is based on relatively few studies from a narrowrange of countries. It indicates that there are cultural and social contrasts in attitudes to, and perceptions of, naturalvegetation in urban areas. However, it is insufficient to indicate whether the observed contrasts apply more widely than inthe specific socio-economic situations in which the surveys were conducted. To maximise the benefits from urbangreenspace, local situations and needs should be studied carefully so that urban nature is managed to provide for the outdooractivities that the local community enjoys, while also providing opportunities for biodiversity and other multiple functions,such as storm water detention, CO2 uptake, urban heat island intensity reduction and potential biofuel harvesting. No onesingle plan for maximising the mental health benefits of urban greenspace is advisable. Knowing the human society and theurban ecosystems in specific places is essential.Introduction Planning Policy Guidance 17 (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), 2002) “Denying the relevance of nature to our specifically mentions “promoting health and well- deepest emotional needs is still the rule in being” among the multiple functions of urban mainstream therapy, as in the culture open spaces. The National Audit Office’s Report generally. It is apt to remain so until on Enhancing Urban Green Space (Comptroller psychologists expand our paradigm of the and Auditor General, 2006) points out that self to include the natural habitat—as was “access to green spaces improves people’s quality always the case in indigenous cultures, of life, reducing stress, encouraging relaxation, whose methods of healing troubled souls and providing a sense of freedom”. The Royal included the trees and rivers, the sun and Commission on Environmental Pollution’s stars” (Theodore Roszak, 1996). Report on The Urban Environment (2007) states that there is “convincing evidence of the positiveFor urban people, the separation from nature is benefits to be gained from both active and passivegreater than in other forms of human settlement, involvement with natural areas in towns andbut need not necessarily be so. Natural cities”.This paper examines the scientific evidencevegetation fulfils many ecosystem and human for such assumptions and asks whether thewell-being functions in urban areas. One of the mental health benefits of urban greenspacesmore important is alleged to be improvement in contribute to the arguments for theirmental health, through recovery from, or incorporation into planning for the creation oralleviation of, mental illness and stress and restoration of urban areas.through helping to raise a feeling of well-beingamong people using natural areas. Since 2000, Relating environment to mental health is noturban greenspace, both quasi-natural and fully made easy by a lack of clarity in the definitionsmanaged, has had a high profile in the planning, of the concepts of mental health and ofhealth and sustainable development agendas. environment. Environment in the context ofUK-MAB Urban Forum 12
  15. 15. greenspaces may be taken as the biophysical mental illness higher than the national average,surroundings of individuals, families and despite having a good layout, greenspace withincommunities. These surroundings affect the the estate and good access to Oxhey Woodshuman psyche through their direct sensory (Martin et al., 1957). Possibly this is an earlyimpacts. Equally our surroundings may influence example of the “suburban neurosis” that has beenour thoughts and feelings by the way they inhibit widely reported from Britain’s New Townsor filter our experience of other things (buildings, (Ineichen, 1993).for example, detach us from the externalenvironment). In addition, our biophysical Many emphasise that the psychologicalsurroundings mediate or affect, inhibit or differences between different urban environmentsencourage our social and personal relationships. and between urban and rural life depend uponMental health may be taken in its broadest sense people’s attitudes and life styles and cannot beof mental well-being or “peace of mind”. related simply to the biophysical environment (Howarth, 1976). Many modern secondaryThe commonly cited beliefs schoolchildren express fears about natural areas or wildlands to which they may be taken as partMuch of what is written about the importance of of school or recreation centre activities (Wohlwill,urban greenspace is related to people’s biological 1983). Such negative perceptions are often linkedneeds as mammals for room for various activities. to preferences for manicured path settings, urbanDirect relationships between these needs and environments and indoor social recreationhealth are unclear. activities (Bixler and Floyd, 1997). Neverthless, much of the literature refers to greenspace as “For a balanced urban habitat we must offering a relief from stress. Modern urban living provide brood cover for small children; safe may involve both sensory deprivation and territory for youthful exploration; flocking, information overload. People can suffer from trysting and roosting habitat for young adults; both. An excess of either one can be harmful. and finally stable and well defined territories An adequate living environment balances sensory for older cohorts. The vacant lot in his block inputs and provides a mix that is both congenial is of far more value to a five-year-old than is and consistent with people’s culturally the park located three or four blocks away. conditioned needs (Hall, 1968). Areas of natural Likewise, the elderly need readily accessible, environment in towns and cities are theoretically comfortable, and quiet parks. With man, as seen as providing the setting for recovery and with wildlife, scale and distribution of green recuperation from the stress and strains of the areas are important” (Stearns, 1972, p.275). built urban environment (Kaplan, 1984). Four themes emerge from the literature of the benefits of nature in the city (Knopf, 1987; Parry-Jones,The expansion of suburbs of semi-detached 1990):houses between 1920 and 1940 in Britain was J Nature restoresseen as increasing the scope for improvements in J Nature facilitates competence buildingphysical health. “In contrast to the dirt and J Nature carries symbols that affirm theovercrowding of inner urban areas, suburban culture or selfliving offered space, low densities, gardens andaccess to the countryside. The emigrant from the J Nature offers a pleasing could rejoice in raising his family in cleanand humane conditions” (Ineichen, 1993, p. 16). These general statements about the benefits of urban greenspace have been adopted by manyBut such benign biophysical surroundings do not UK local and regional authorities. Theiralways bring good mental health. The Oxhey comments emphasise biophysical environmentalestate near Watford, built soon after 1950 to benefits. Good quality greenspaces encouragehouse people from inner London, had a rate of people to walk, run, cycle and play. GreenspacesUK-MAB Urban Forum 13
  16. 16. improve air quality and reduce noise, while trees known as ‘green gyms’ (Bird, 1999). A widerand shrubbery help to filter out dust and range of other schemes aim to promote healthpollutants. If paths and cycle networks are and wellbeing, but not necessarily or exclusivelyintegrated to facilitate commuting, they can by promoting physical activity. In these schemesreduce transport needs and provide safe and people are encouraged to enjoy the psychologicalhealthy routes to school for children that avoid benefits that can be afforded by ‘green spaces’, orhazardous road crossings. communities enabled to thrive through projects that take a holistic rather than a medicalStockport MBC stresses health and well-being approach to people and health by promotingaspects as well: participation in art and learning in ways that J Relaxation, contemplation and passive often focus on the value of local environmental recreation is essential to stress amenities, spaces and landscapes (e.g. Rigler and management in today’s busy world— Campbell, 1996). recent evidence has brought to light the extraordinary role that good quality Campaigning organisations, such as Greenroofs, greenspace plays in relieving stress and use similar arguments about the mental health promoting physical and mental health and well-being values of urban greenspace: not only of individuals but the well being of the community—quality “Many psychological studies have proven that greenspace is often absent from the overall quality of life can be enhanced by problem neighbourhoods. the addition of natural green spaces. Distinct J Greenspace issues can unite the whole therapeutic links exist between moods, health, community and can be the focus of recuperation time and nature. It has been community development and local suggested that mental health and emotional regeneration fostering a sense of stability are positively influenced by green community pride. spaces and with interaction of other elements of nature. Green spaces reflect the changing seasons and provide a psychological link withStockport MBC has put these ideas into action. the countryside. Green roofs could certainlyA pioneering development, based in Stockport, be part of a comprehensive therapeuticfunded by the local authority, the Countryside environment, especially when contrasted toAgency and the Health Authority, promotes and viewing the more common ugly roof spacesimproves access to greenspace in urban areas for from a hospital window”people with physical and mental needs. The ( creates and signs accessible paths antages.htm).through attractive greenspace close to areas ofdeprivation and ill-health. GP’s and community A commentary on the London Greenspace plannurses refer patients to the project for exercise argues that:and well-being. Local volunteers and communitygroups also work with the project, to create and “Access to green spaces also provides mentalmaintain the pathways and to complete a health benefits. Green spaces offer relaxationborough-wide network of routes. for stressed urban dwellers. Studies in the USA have shown that within three minutes of beingElsewhere in the UK (Henwood, 2002) projects in green space stress levels return to normalhave been set up to increase the health benefits of whereas recovery time in a built-up area is 25activities in the outdoor environment through minutes. One in five people will suffer fromorganised schemes to promote walking (eg the mental illness, including depression during theThames Valley and Sonning Common Heath course of their lives. Regular moderateWalk schemes) and using conservation work to exercise is as effective as medication inincrease levels of physical activity –an approach alleviating mild to moderate depression. TheseUK-MAB Urban Forum 14
  17. 17. benefits of green space represent significant came from paths through thickets of savings for the health care budget which can undergrowth which may have induced an element be achieved by people having easy access to of fear into some visitors. This study and others green spaces. There are particular benefits suggest that while feelings of calm and relaxation from green spaces for minority groups which are major components of people’s emotional have poorer than average health and limited reactions to nature, more animated responses access to the countryside”. such as being emotionally moved and uplifted are also important (Rohde and Kendle, 1994).Recreational parks and green areas provide Enjoyment of green areas may help people toopportunities for healthy physical activity and the relax or may give them fresh energy (Ulrich,relief of stress. Furthermore, the passive benefits 1990).to physical and mental health of an urbanlandscape with trees have been documented in Mental health specialists have noted that theindustrialized countries (Ulrich, 1984); enjoyment nineteenth century mental asylums often hadof green areas may help people to relax or may farms. In the late twentieth century, the extensivegive them fresh energy. Such findings broadly grounds around asylums became gardens inconfirm the conclusions of others concerning which inmates continued to work. An almostcontact with nature, reduction of stress and universally accepted criticism of the closure ofescape from dense urbanity (Ulrich, 1979; asylums and de-institutionalisation of mentalGreenbie, 1981; Nicholson-Lord, 1987; Kaplan illness is about the loss of these gardens, whichand Kaplan, 1989; Bussey, 1996). implies a universal assumption that gardens are therapeutic to the mind. More recent evidence ofThe grounds for these beliefs this therapeutic value of gardening, comes from Brown and Jameton’s observation (2000) thatThe actual evidence for mental health benefits recreational gardening is a way to relax andfrom urban greenspace may be less clear than release stress and Patterson and Chang’s evidencethese assertions imply. Undoubtedly, trees fulfil (1999) of a link between physical activity such ascertain psychological, social and cultural needs of gardening and reduced anxiety and depression.urban people. They play an important social rolein easing tensions and improving psychological Gardens represent attempts at models for thehealth. One study has demonstrated that hospital environment as paradise. Should we question thispatients placed in rooms with windows facing basic idea of their therapeutic quality, we wouldtrees heal faster and require shorter hospital stays have great difficulty explaining a large proportion(Ulrich, 1984). When appropriately selected and of the world’s poetry. Evidence continues toplaced, trees are effective in screening out demonstrate the therapeutic value of gardeningundesirable views and ensuring privacy, while for many different social groups, whether thepermitting free visual access to the rest of the inmates of institutions, the elderly or the younglandscape. (Milligan et al., 2003). Gardens and gardening imply social values of greenspaces and thusParks provide easily accessible recreational demonstrate the significance of the garden cityopportunities for people and offer opportunities suburban design concept that permeatedfor healthy physical activity. In one study (Hull twentieth century planning.and Harvey, 1989) people visiting parks expectedto experience more please the more trees and the The scientific evidenceless undergrowth there were. The subjects’preference for parks increased linearly with Broadly, the scientific evidence is of four kinds: i)increasing pleasure and arousal. The arousal- the outcomes of experiments in which subjectsinducing characteristics were counter to the have been tested in contrasting situations; ii) thecalming influence of parks expected by the findings of studies that used photographs andresearchers. The exhilaration and arousal often videos of natural environments to test people’sUK-MAB Urban Forum 15
  18. 18. reactions; iii) the results of attitudinal surveys, sitting in a room with tree views, and thenboth quantitative and qualitative, in which people walking in a nature reserve. In the urbanare asked about their preferences and experiences; environment, the two phases were sitting in aand iv) the use of national or regional health data room without views, and then walking in ansets. The therapeutic value of natural urban area. This careful experiment usingenvironments has only been tested in a few students around 21 years old in attractive but notcontrolled experiments which have indicated that spectacular natural vegetation and in the City ofsuch surroundings aid recovery from surgery Orange, California, revealed that in the initial 10(Ulrich, 1984); enhance the ability to focus minutes of the environmental treatment, subject’sattention (Hartig et al., 1991); and improve diastolic blood pressure (DBP) declined amongemotional states (Ulrich, 1979; Hartig et al., those seated in a room where trees could be seen1996, 2003; Wells 2000; Evans et al., 2000). To through the windows, but increased in those in athese experiments may be added studies that used room without views. After walking for 20photographs and videos of natural environments minutes, the difference in DBP of subjects in theto test people’s reactions (Ulrich, 1990; Ulrich et natural and urban areas was significant. Self–al., 1991). More numerous are the attitudinal reported overall happiness was also greater in thesurveys that demonstrate that people develop natural environment at this stage. However, afterparticular attitudes to greenspaces, wild the walk had been completed, the differences inlandscapes and natural vegetation (such as Bixler DBP between urban and natural walk subjectset al., 1994; Bixler and Floyd, 1997; Bulbeck, had disappeared. Emotional differences,1999; Milligan et al., 2003; Schroeder, 1982; however, remained. This Hartig et al. (2003)Schroeder and Anderson, 1984; Westover, 1986). found converging evidence from different types ofNational or regional data sets are able to measures that natural settings contribute todistinguish contrasts due more to location of positive outcomes. Nevertheless, they cautionresidence and occupation rather than individual that the magnitude of the effects is not solelybehaviour. produced by the influence of natural vegetation and attractive landscapes. The negative effects ofControlled experiments. The controlled the windowless room and the urban settings alsoexperiments include work that showed that views contribute to the differences.of natural scenes from hospital windows aidedpatients’ recovery from gall bladder surgery In terms of the practical implications of their(Ulrich, 1984) and that prisoners with views of work, Hartig et al. (2003) conclude that regularnature reported sick less often (Moore, 1982); and access to restorative, natural environments cansuffered fewer stress-related physical symptoms halt or slow processes that negatively affect(West 1985). These experiments suggest that mental and physical health in the short- and long-mere visibility of nature may have powerful term, and that, for urban people in particular,preventative and curative effects on people’s easy pedestrian and visual access to naturalhealth (Rohde and Kendle, 1994). Hartig et al. settings can produce preventive benefits. Public(1991) found that subjects’ completion of a health strategies that incorporate use of areas ofproof-reading exercise was improved following natural vegetation in urban areas may havecontact with nature through a hike in a particular value in an era of rapid urban growth,wilderness area or a walk through a park close to rising health care costs, and deterioratingthe city. Such findings were considered to environmental the Kaplans’ view (1984, 1995) of therestorative benefits of nature. Nancy Wells has examined the impact of transforming a barren asphalt space into a greenHartig and co-workers (2003) have gone further garden within a nursing home environment andby conducting experiments in urban and natural has studied the relationship between childhoodsituations in two phases: indoor and outdoor. In exposure to nature and adult environmentalthe natural environment, the two phases were attitudes (Evans et al., 2000; Wells 2000). A houseUK-MAB Urban Forum 16
  19. 19. surrounded by nature helps to boost a child’s snakes or severe storms, and similar outdoorattention capabilities. When children’s cognitive experiences. Students reporting negativefunctioning was compared before and after they perceptions of wildland environments had lowermoved from poor- to better-quality housing that preferences for such environments and activitieshad more green spaces around, profound with them and to some degree also had higherdifferences emerged in their attention capacities, preferences for indoor environments andeven when the effects of the improved housing activities. Counter to popular assumptions aboutwere taken into account. The children studied urban attitudes to the natural world, mostly ruralwho had the greatest gains in terms of and suburban students had these negative“greenness” between their old and new homes attitudes.also showed the greatest improvements infunctioning. The results suggest that the natural Attitudinal surveys. Partly because of importantenvironment may play a far more significant role American findings and recommendations on thein the well-being of children within a housing value of physical activity as part of healthy livingenvironment than has previously been recognised (Pate et al., 1995; U.S. Department of Health and(Wells, 2000). A similar beneficial relationship Human services, 1996), many countries havewas found in rural areas (Wells and Evans, 2003). adopted new physical activity guidelines that indicate the value of moderate-intensity activity,Tests using slides and videos. Experiments by such as brisk walking, to achieve healthUlrich and co-workers suggest that visual improvements. Often it is suggested that theexposure to nature through slides or videos may surroundings in which the walking occurs addimprove subjects’ moods. Three studies have mental health benefits to the physical health gainsshown a connection between trees and lower (Ball et al., 2001). Theoretical social studieslevels of violence (Mooney and Nicell, 1992; Rice emphasise the importance of interactionsand Remy, 1994, 1998). However, these studies between individual psychological, social andinvolved prison inmates and Alzheimer’s disease biophysical environmental variables (Sallis andpatients living in nursing homes. What about Hovell, 1990; Sallis and Owen, 1997). Inpeople who are not living in institutional settings? questionnaire surveys in the East Midlands ofThe role of urban greenspaces in promoting England, getting away from stress was associatedsocial interaction and well-being among the with relaxation and nature- seeing it, being inelderly is generally regarded as highly positive natural places and learning about it, suggesting a(Kweon et al., 1998). For older adults, social role for natural greenspaces in stress reductionintegration and the strength of social ties are (Bell et al., 2004).profoundly important predictors of well-being However, there can be associations betweenand longevity. Biophysical environments getting exercise and becoming de-stressed, as wellprobably can be designed to promote older adults as just being in a natural area. Telephonesocial integration with their neighbours. Kweon interviews with over 3000 Australian adultsand colleagues (1998) examined this possibility by revealed positive associations of environmentaltesting the relationships between varying aesthetics (a composite score based on Likertamounts of exposure to green outdoor communal scale responses to questions about the friendlinessareas and the strength of ties among neighbours. of the neighbourhood, the attractiveness of the local area and the pleasantness of walking nearThus exposure to natural scenes reduces stress. home) with walking for exercise in the two weeksHowever, this is unlikely to be the same for all prior to the interview. Those reporting lowpeople, all of the time. Bixler and Floyd (1997) environmental aesthetics were about 40% lessused slides in classrooms in rural, suburban and likely to walk for exercise than those returningurban schools in Texas to discover the reactions high scores (Ball et al., 2001). As a whole, thisof 450 middle school students to examine survey supported the case for environment-reactions to insects, woodland environments, focused public policies and interventions tohandling soil and pond water, encounters with influence physical activity. Areas of naturalUK-MAB Urban Forum 17
  20. 20. vegetation and wildlife habitat in urban areas The extent and nature use of parks and peri-could form a key part of the local facilities, parks, urban countryside for recreation to relieve stresscycle paths and pleasant areas that may are likely to differ widely among individuals andencourage more adults, including those with social groups. Probably most groups gain manypoorer mental health, to take exercise. well-being and emotional benefits from contact with nature in urban areas.However, there is much to suggest that natural, orwild, areas are unattractive and induce negative As reported by Kweon et al. (1998), the benefitsreactions on the part of many people. Direct of contact with natural landscapes seembehavioural evidence of such negative reactions is particularly significant among the elderly. Inlimited because the use of wildlands for focus group exercises and interviews with peoplerecreation is an activity chosen by individuals and over 65 in Carlisle, Milligan et al. (2003) foundthus those who dislike them avoid them. natural areas to be intimately linked to olderBehavioural surveys conducted among adult people’s social interactions in ways that can bevisitors in urban natural areas thus sample an central to relieving the stresses of everyday life.already self-selected group likely to have positive For many the aesthetics of a pleasing andattitudes to wildlife. Students attending tranquil landscape formed an important elementcompulsory field classes represent a broader of the therapeutic qualities of social encountersrange of attitudes. Bixler et al. (1994) collected outdoors. Overall, the natural landscape was seenexamples of negative reactions by urban students to contribute positively, in both active and passiveon field trips observed by park naturalists and ways, to the mental well-being of the interviewees.teachers of environmental science. Some of theattitudes found were generalised fears of the Sullivan and Kuo (1996) found less violence inwoods; of wildlife; and of insects and spiders; urban public housing where there were trees. Thedisgust reactions to the dirtiness of the role of natural areas in helping to reduce anger,environment; and discomfort from extreme as confirmed by Hartig et al.’s experiments (2003)weather conditions. deserves special attention particularly as anger in urban settings often leads to violence which canVulnerability in natural greenspaces was a greater affect many people other than the angryconcern among women than men responding to a individual (see Kuo and Sullivan, 2001).questionnaire about natural areas in the East Residents from buildings with trees report usingMidlands of England (Bell et al., 2004). The more constructive, less violent ways of dealingconcern was reinforced by statements made in with conflict in their homes. They report usingfocus groups in the same study and reflects reasoning more often in conflicts with theirfindings of other research (Burgess, 1995b, Ward children, and they report significantly less use ofThompson et al., 2004). Several surveys and focus severe violence. Also, in conflicts with theirgroup discussions led by Burgess and Harrison partners, they report less use of physical violencehave demonstrated diverse attitudes to urban than do residents living in buildings without trees.greenspaces in various communities, especially inGreater London (Burgess, 1995a, b; Burgess et An important caveat is added by interviews inal., 1988). Members of ethnic minorities in the New York which examined the associationEast Midlands form a smaller proportion of between both the internal living environment andvisitors to greenspaces than their proportion of the external built environment and depressionthe population as a whole (Bell et al., 2004) In that showed that while most previous work hadEast Midlands focus group discussions, people concentrated on the external environment, thefrom ethnic minorities spoke of being influence of the conditions inside dwelling mightuncomfortable in natural areas, of finding them be more important (Galea et al., 2005). This findalien to the urban settings with which they are parallels in other work on health and the urbanunfamiliar, and of not having enough environment, such as investigations of the linkinformation about green areas (Bell et al., 2004). between air pollution and lung disease whichUK-MAB Urban Forum 18
  21. 21. suggest that conditions inside the home may in Implications of the scientific evidencemany cases be much more important thanconditions in the street and in urban open spaces. The scientific work reported here provides clearIn examining the evidence, care is needed to see evidence that among many sectors of societywhether all the factors contributing to mental there are positive benefits for mental health andhealth are considered. well-being to be gained from both active and passive involvement with natural areas in townsSynthesising ideas and findings on the and cities. Regular access to restorative, naturalphysiological and psychological benefits of urban environments can halt or slow processes thatforests and nature, Schroeder and Lewis (1991) negatively affect mental and physical health.developed Kaplan and Kaplan’s concept (1989) Walking in natural areas provides opportunitiesof fatigue directed attention (the result of for social interaction that are particularlyconstant externally generated demands for beneficial for the elderly. Exposure to naturalattention characteristic of the urban scenes reduces stress. Trees play an importantenvironment) and proposed several reasons why social role in easing tensions and improvingnature – “the green pause that refreshes” – might psychological health. People feel better livingact to restore spent or flagging mental capacities. around trees. Houses surrounded by nature helpThese include positive memories associated with to raise children’s attention capabilities. Thusnature; the way trees can off shelter; and deep- living in areas with trees helps to reduce angerseated, culturally ingrained emotional or spiritual and violence and improve the ability toconnections with nature. They also recognised concentrate and work effectively.negative impacts derived from feelings of fearinduced by dense tree cover and feelings of The scientific evidence broadly confirms theannoyance due to the untidiness of nature. comments of others concerning contact withPerhaps there is a threshold for many people nature, reduction of stress and escape from densewhen positive influences of nature give way to urbanity (Ulrich, 1979; Greenbie, 1981;fear and negative impulses. This threshold varies Nicholson-Lord, 1987; Kaplan and Kaplan,with people’s perceptions and may alter as 1989; Bussey, 1996, Grahn, 1994, 1996). However,environmental conditions change, for example it also implies that for many the greatest value ofbeing positive on the beach when the sea is calm urban woodlands and natural vegetation is as anbut negative when storm waves a crashing down escape or refuge away from urban life andon the sand and noisily shifting the mineral probably human (urban) activity (Greenbie, 1981;grains about the shore. In urban natural areas, Nicholson-Lord, 1987). To provide this refuge,reactions may cross thresholds, as implied by areas of urban natural vegetation have to besome of the work reported here, when well- accessible and allow the user to feel securespaced trees give way to totally shaded, dense (Burgess, 1995a and Burgess, 1995b) andthickets and undergrowth which may hide confident in their use (Coles and Bussey, 2000)unexpected terrors. Nonetheless, the number of studies is limited andNational or regional data sets. A study using data almost entirely confined to the USA, Europe andfrom the Health and Lifestyle Survey, a Australia. They sometimes embrace subjects ofpopulation based community survey of England, varying ethnic background and educationalWales and Scotland in which psychiatric attainment, but are often restricted to certain agemorbidity was assessed using the General Health groups, such as students or elderly people. ThereQuestionnaire found an association was found may be some bias in the type of researchbetween urban residence and the prevalence of questions due to the efforts in government-psychiatric morbidity (odds ratio 1.54, 95% CI funded research on such topics as urban forestry1.32-1.80) which persisted after adjustment for and the health benefits of physical recreation.various confounding factors (odds ratio 1.34, Notwithstanding these limitations, in countries95% CI 1.13-1.58) (Lewis and Booth, 1994). like the United Kingdom, there are likely to beUK-MAB Urban Forum 19
  22. 22. considerable mental health gains from contact dog-walking and jogging to bird-watching andwith nature in urban areas. Put together with the environmental education. Public participation inphysical health, biodiversity, local climate the planning and management of such areas,modification, air pollution and greenhouse gas especially through interaction and consultationmitigation values of nature in urban areas, these with local communities, will enhance their valuegains warrant the inclusion of a variety of and will help to reduce vandalism and othergreenspaces in all urban design, from formal city forms of misuse.squares to patches of natural vegetation andwildlife habitat. All such greenspaces will have New work to evaluate urban greenspace benefitsmulti-purpose benefits, particularly when is underway (e.g. De Ridder et al., 2004). It mayintegrated with protection of steep slopes, urban help to clarify some of the complex, multi-faceteddrainage design and floodplain management. relationships between urban people’s mentalHowever it is important to note the negative being and their relationships with urban nature.perceptions some people have of some areas of Nevertheless, the present experimental, surveynatural vegetation. Unlit footpaths through and quantitative scientific evidence is based onnatural woodland are not suitable for commuter relatively few studies from a narrow range ofroutes to railway or bus stations. Thus planning countries. It indicates that there are cultural andfor natural landscapes in urban areas must social contrasts in attitudes to, and perceptionsinvolve public participation and close of, natural vegetation in urban areas. However, itconsultation with residents and local is insufficient to indicate whether the observedcommunities. There are no single, simple, off-the- contrasts apply more widely than in the specificshelf solutions that urban designers can socio-economic situations in which the surveysincorporate unquestioningly. Both people and were conducted. For example, would old peoplenature are complex. What works in one situation in Miami, Florida respond in the same way as oldmay not work in another either for cultural and people in Carlisle, England did? Thus a goodsocial reasons, or for ecological, biogeochemical case could be made for international comparativeor climatic reasons. However, an abundance of studies, or even comparisons between countriesexisting good practice is available to help urban and regions within the United Kingdom, todesigners, planners and managers increase the use examine how different social groups in similarof natural areas and to work with those sized urban areas in around ten different regionsconcerned with public health and mental well- or countries enjoy, use and react to urban nature.being to create healthier cities with urbanlandscapes that offer positive incentives to take Referencesphysical exercise in pleasant surroundings. Ball, K., Bauman, A., Leslie, E. and Owen, N.(2001).Conclusions Perceived environmental aesthetics and convenience and company are associated with walking for exercise among Australian adults. Preventive Medicine, 33, 434-440.There is good scientific evidence that contact with Bell, S., Morris, N., Findlay, C., Travlou, P., Montarzino, A., Gooch, D., Gregory, G. and Ward Thompson, C.(2004).nature in urban areas can improve mental health Nature for people: the importance of green spaces to Eastand can help in the restoration on psychological Midlands communities. English Nature Researchwell-being. The evidence is strong enough to Reports, 567, English Nature, Peterborough. Bird,W. (1999). The health benefits of forests close to people.make the case for the inclusion of areas of Community Forestry, 50 (5).natural vegetation in both urban planning, Bird, W. (2004). Natural Fit – Can Green Space and Biodiversity Increase Levels of Physical Activity? Reportparticularly for the expansion of existing towns for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy,and the creation of new urban settlements, as Bedfordshireplanned in the Thames Gateway area of the Bixler, R.D. and Floyd, M.F.(1997). Nature is scary, disgusting and uncomfortable. Environment andUnited Kingdom. Such areas need to be Behaviour, 29, 443-456.strategically located to give accessibility to both Bixler, R.D., Carlisle, C.L., Hammitt, W.E. and Floyd, M.F.(1994). Observed fears and discomforts amongthe young and older people likely to use them and urban students on school field trips to wildland provide for different types of enjoyment, from Journal of Environmental Education, 26, 24-35.UK-MAB Urban Forum 20
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