Gender differences in relationships between urban green space and health in the United Kingdom

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Aug;71(3):568-575. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.04.015. Epub 2010 May 12.


Natural environments, or 'green spaces', have been associated with a wide range of health benefits. Gender differences in neighbourhood effects on health have been found in a number of studies, although these have not been explored in relation to green space. We conducted the first UK-wide study of the relationship between urban green space and health, and the first such study to investigate gender differences in this relationship. An ecological approach was used. Two land use datasets were used to create a proportional green space measure (% by area) at the UK Census Area Statistic ward scale. Our sample consisted of 6432 urban wards, with a total population of 28.6 million adults aged 16-64 years in 2001. We selected health outcomes that were plausibly related to green space (cardiovascular disease mortality, respiratory disease mortality and self-reported limiting long-term illness) and another that was expected to be unrelated (lung cancer mortality). Negative binomial regression models examined associations between urban green space and these health outcomes, after controlling for relevant confounders. Gender differences in these associations were observed and tested. Male cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease mortality rates decreased with increasing green space, but no significant associations were found for women. No protective associations were observed between green space and lung cancer mortality or self-reported limiting long-term illness for either men or women. Possible explanations for the observed gender differences in the green space and health relationship are gender differences in perceptions and usage of urban green spaces. We conclude that it is important not to assume uniform health benefits of urban green space for all population subgroups. Additionally, urban green space measures that capture quality as well as quantity could be more suited to studying green space and health relationships for women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Environment Design*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors*
  • United Kingdom
  • Urban Health*
  • Young Adult