The Brooklyn Bridge

Could green spaces close gaps in health between people of different incomes? According to a researcher from the University of Glasgow, that may be the case. A study of 34 European nations found that the gap in mental well-being between socioeconomic groups was 40% narrower among respondents with good access to green/recreational areas compared with those with poorer access. While it’s certainly not without flaws, the study raises some interesting questions about equigenic environments (places that can reduce health inequalities).

Along similar lines, researchers at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School found that moving to a greener urban area can lead to lasting positive changes in mental well-being. Another University of Exeter study of more than 10,000 people found that, on average, respondents reported higher levels of well-being and lower levels of mental distress when living in greener urban areas. Across the Atlantic, a University of Wisconsin study of more than 2,500 residents of 229 cities and towns found that respondents claimed to be happier, on average, when more green space is located in their neighborhood.

As more people around the world move to cities, and more cities compete make themselves attractive to talented workers, urban green spaces are an important part of making sure cities are healthier, happier and more equal. There are economic and business benefits to green spaces too. For planners, as well as those involved in economic or community development, there is a wealth of information on designing cities that make the most of green spaces.

This post first appeared in TINAN 69. Subscribe to TINAN for the latest economic development news and resources.