Green space, health inequality and pregnancy

Environ Int. 2012 Apr:40:110-115. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2011.07.004. Epub 2011 Aug 6.


Green spaces have been suggested to improve physical and mental health and well-being by increasing physical activity, reducing air pollution, noise, and ambient temperature, increasing social contacts and relieving psychophysiological stress. Although these mechanisms also suggest potential beneficial effects of green spaces on pregnancy outcomes, to our knowledge there is no available epidemiological evidence on this impact. We investigated the effects of surrounding greenness and proximity to major green spaces on birth weight and gestational age at delivery and described the effect of socioeconomic position (SEP) on these relationships. This study was based on a cohort of births (N=8246) that occurred in a major university hospital in Barcelona, Spain, during 2001-2005. We determined surrounding greenness from satellite retrievals as the average of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in a buffer of 100 m around each maternal place of residence. To address proximity to major green spaces, a binary variable was used to indicate whether maternal residential address is situated within a buffer of 500 m from boundaries of a major green space. For each indicator of green exposure, linear regression models were constructed to estimate change in outcomes adjusted for relevant covariates including individual and area level SEP. None of the indicators of green exposure was associated with birth weight and gestational age. After assessing effect modification based on the level of maternal education, we detected an increase in birth weight (grams) among the lowest education level group (N=164) who had higher surrounding NDVI (Regression coefficient (95% confidence interval (CI) of 436.3 (43.1, 829.5)) or lived close to a major green space (Regression coefficient (95% CI)) of 189.8 (23.9, 355.7)). Our findings suggest a beneficial effect of exposure to green spaces on birth weight only in the lowest SEP group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Birth Weight
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Health
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain
  • Urban Health


  • Air Pollutants