How effective is the Forestry Commission Scotland's woodland improvement programme--'Woods In and Around Towns' (WIAT)--at improving psychological well-being in deprived urban communities? A quasi-experimental study

BMJ Open. 2013 Aug 30;3(8):e003648. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003648.


Introduction: There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that green spaces may positively influence psychological well-being. This project is designed to take advantage of a natural experiment where planned physical and social interventions to enhance access to natural environments in deprived communities provide an opportunity to prospectively assess impacts on perceived stress and mental well-being.

Study design and methods: A controlled, prospective study comprising a repeat cross-sectional survey of residents living within 1.5 km of intervention and comparison sites. Three waves of data will be collected: prephysical environment intervention (2013); postphysical environment intervention (2014) and postwoodland promotion social intervention (2015). The primary outcome will be a measure of perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale) preintervention and postintervention. Secondary, self-report outcomes include: mental well-being (Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale), changes in physical activity (IPAQ-short form), health (EuroQoL EQ-5D), perception and use of the woodlands, connectedness to nature (Inclusion of Nature in Self Scale), social cohesion and social capital. An environmental audit will complement the study by evaluating the physical changes in the environment over time and recording any other contextual changes over time. A process evaluation will assess the implementation of the programme. A health economics analysis will assess the cost consequences of each stage of the intervention in relation to the primary and secondary outcomes of the study.

Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval has been given by the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh College of Art Research, Ethics and Knowledge Exchange Committee (ref. 19/06/2012). Findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed publications, national and international conferences and, at the final stage of the project, through a workshop for those interested in implementing environmental interventions.