A cross-sectional analysis of green space prevalence and mental wellbeing in England

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

BMC Public Health


Victoria Houlden, Scott Weich and Stephen Jarvis

Publication date


Background: With urbanisation increasing, it is important to understand how to design changing environments to promote mental wellbeing. Evidence suggests that local-area proportions of green space may be associated with happiness and life satisfaction; however, the available evidence on such associations with more broadly defined mental wellbeing in still very scarce. This study aimed to establish whether the amount of neighbourhood green space was associated with mental wellbeing. Methods: Data were drawn from Understanding Society, a national survey of 30,900 individuals across 11,096 Census Lower-Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England, over the period 2009–2010. Measures included the multi-dimensional Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (SWEMWBS) and LSOA proportion of green space, which was derived from the General Land Use Database (GLUD), and were analysed using linear regression, while controlling for individual, household and area-level factors. Results: Those living in areas with greater proportions of green space had significantly higher mental wellbeing scores in unadjusted analyses (an expected increase of 0.17 points (95% CI 0.11, 0.23) in the SWEMWBS score for a standard deviation increase of green space). However, after adjustment for confounding by respondent sociodemographic characteristics and urban/rural location, the association was attenuated to the null (regression coefficient B = − 0.01, 95% CI -0.08, 0.05, p = 0.712).
Conclusions: While the green space in an individual’s local area has been shown through other research to be related to aspects of mental health such as happiness and life satisfaction, the association with multidimensional mental wellbeing is much less clear from our results. While we did not find a statistically significant association between the amount of green space in residents’ local areas and mental wellbeing, further research is needed to understand whether other features of green space, such as accessibility, aesthetics or use, are important for mental wellbeing.

Volume and page numbers

17, 460






Area Effects, Psychology, Urban Sociology, Geography, Well Being and Health


© The Author(s). 2017; Open Access; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.