Living in a home surrounded by trees, gardens and natural vegetation (i.e., greenspace, or greenness) may confer numerous health benefits. Notably, studies in Canada, the United States and Europe have found inverse associations between residential greenness and all-cause or non-accidental, respiratory and cardiovascular mortality, after adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic confounders. Associations with mortality are stronger among certain groups: in Canada, among women and people with higher income and education, and, in England, among the lowest income group. In addition to mortality outcomes, a Dutch study found that better self-assessed general health was associated with exposure to greenness within both 1 km and 3 km of a person’s home, and a Toronto study found better perceived health was associated with higher street tree density.
Proximity and access to residential greenness may act upon health outcomes in several ways.
Read a report published by Statistics Canada entitled: Ethnocultural and socioeconomic disparities in exposure to residential greenness within urban Canada. It address access to green spaces in residential areas in Canada.
There is also a growing body of research providing concrete evidence that connecting with nature is vital to residents’ physical and mental well-being. Metro Vancouver is one of many stakeholders in the Where Matters study led by Dr. Larry Frank at UBC’s Health and Community Design Lab. The study examines the relationship between health and the built environment.
The study found people with access to many parks were:
• 20 per cent more likely to walk for leisure or recreation
• 33 per cent more likely to meet the weekly recommended level of physical activity
• 43 per cent less likely to be obese
• 37 per cent less likely to have diabetes
• 39 per cent less likely to have heart disease
• 19 per cent less likely to have stressful days
• 23 per cent more likely to have a strong sense of community belonging compared to those living in an area with no parks.
The study also found sizeable cost savings to the health-care system as a result of these health benefits.