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Special Issue "Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (22 March 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Soumya Mazumdar
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of New South Wales, UNSW, South Western Sydney Clinical School, Goulburn St, Liverpool NSW 2170, Australia
Interests: built environment; social capital; health services; geographic methods; spatial cluster detection

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

A growing literature is now supporting the effect of greenspaces on mental/physical health. The existing literature utilises a large variety of methods for measuring greenspace. The methods range from perceived first-person measures to satellite-derived indices and Google Street View based greenness indices. Recent developments also include the use of artificial-intelligence-based approaches to identify green objects instead of traditional pixel based classifications. Different methods and measures suit different purposes. In this Special Issue, we seek to bring together a collection of articles that compare, contrast or review various measures and meanings of greenspace. Included in this collection will be articles that seek to compare how different measures of greenspace are differently associated with measures of mental and physical health or with social capital. We encourage a range of studies including reviews, case studies, spatial studies, and epidemiological studies with different designs.

Dr. Soumya Mazumdar
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • greenspace
  • measures
  • methods/methodology
  • geographical information systems
  • health

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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Article
Walkability and Greenness Do Not Walk Together: Investigating Associations between Greenness and Walkability in a Large Metropolitan City Context
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(9), 4429; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18094429 - 21 Apr 2021
Viewed by 1717
Abstract
Background: The existing environment literature separately emphasizes the importance of neighborhood walkability and greenness in enhancing health and wellbeing. Thus, a desirable neighborhood should ideally be green and walkable at the same time. Yet, limited research exists on the prevalence of such “sweet [...] Read more.
Background: The existing environment literature separately emphasizes the importance of neighborhood walkability and greenness in enhancing health and wellbeing. Thus, a desirable neighborhood should ideally be green and walkable at the same time. Yet, limited research exists on the prevalence of such “sweet spot” neighborhoods. We sought to investigate this question in the context of a large metropolitan city (i.e., Sydney) in Australia. Methods: Using suburb level normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI), percentage urban greenspace, Walk Score® (Walk Score, Seattle, WA, USA), and other data, we explored the global and local relationships of neighborhood-level greenness, urban green space (percent park area) with walkability applying both non-spatial and spatial modeling. Results: We found an overall negative relationship between walkability and greenness (measured as NDVI). Most neighborhoods (represented by suburbs) in Sydney are either walkable or green, but not both. Sweet spot neighborhoods that did exist were green but only somewhat walkable. In addition, many neighborhoods were both less green and somewhat walkable. Moreover, we observed a significant positive relationship between percentage park area and walkability. These results indicate walkability and greenness have inverse and, at best, mixed associations in the Sydney metropolitan area. Conclusions: Our analysis indicates an overall negative relationship between greenness and walkability, with significant local variability. With ongoing efforts towards greening Sydney and improving walkability, more neighborhoods may eventually be transformed into becoming greener and more walkable. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
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Article
Which Green Space Metric Best Predicts a Lowered Odds of Type 2 Diabetes?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(8), 4088; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18084088 - 13 Apr 2021
Viewed by 560
Abstract
The choice of a green space metric may affect what relationship is found with health outcomes. In this research, we investigated the relationship between percent green space area, a novel metric developed by us (based on the average contiguous green space area a [...] Read more.
The choice of a green space metric may affect what relationship is found with health outcomes. In this research, we investigated the relationship between percent green space area, a novel metric developed by us (based on the average contiguous green space area a spatial buffer has contact with), in three different types of buffers and type 2 diabetes (T2D). We obtained information about diagnosed T2D and relevant covariates at the individual level from the large and representative 45 and Up Study. Average contiguous green space and the percentage of green space within 500 m, 1 km, and 2 km of circular buffer, line-based road network (LBRN) buffers, and polygon-based road network (PBRN) buffers around participants’ residences were used as proxies for geographic access to green space. Generalized estimating equation regression models were used to determine associations between access to green space and T2D status of individuals. It was found that 30%–40% green space within 500 m LBRN or PBRN buffers, and 2 km PBRN buffers, but not within circular buffers, significantly reduced the risk of T2D. The novel average green space area metric did not appear to be particularly effective at measuring reductions in T2D. This study complements an existing research body on optimal buffers for green space measurement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
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Article
Associations of Residential Brownness and Greenness with Fasting Glucose in Young Healthy Adults Living in the Desert
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(2), 520; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18020520 - 10 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1005
Abstract
Evolutionary psychology theories propose that contact with green, natural environments may benefit physical health, but little comparable evidence exists for brown, natural environments, such as the desert. In this study, we examined the association between “brownness” and “greenness” with fasting glucose among young [...] Read more.
Evolutionary psychology theories propose that contact with green, natural environments may benefit physical health, but little comparable evidence exists for brown, natural environments, such as the desert. In this study, we examined the association between “brownness” and “greenness” with fasting glucose among young residents of El Paso, Texas. We defined brownness as the surface not covered by vegetation or impervious land within Euclidian buffers around participants’ homes. Fasting glucose along with demographic and behavioral data were obtained from the Nurse Engagement and Wellness Study (n = 517). We found that residential proximity to brownness was not associated with fasting glucose when modeled independently. In contrast, we found that residential greenness was associated with decreased levels of fasting glucose, despite the relatively low levels of greenness within the predominantly desert environment of El Paso. A difference between the top and bottom greenness exposure quartiles within a 250 m buffer was associated with a 3.5 mg/dL decrease in fasting glucose levels (95% confidence interval: −6.2, −0.8). Our results suggest that within the understudied context of the desert, green vegetation may be health promoting to a degree that is similar to other, non-desert locations in the world that have higher baselines levels of green. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
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Article
The Effects of an Artificial Garden on Heart Rate Variability among Healthy Young Japanese Adults
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(24), 9465; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17249465 - 17 Dec 2020
Viewed by 668
Abstract
Spending time in nature might positively influence mental health by inducing a relaxed state. Recently, gardens have been created on hospital rooftops in Japan to help inpatients recover from various physical and mental aliments. However, there is little evidence regarding any positive physiological [...] Read more.
Spending time in nature might positively influence mental health by inducing a relaxed state. Recently, gardens have been created on hospital rooftops in Japan to help inpatients recover from various physical and mental aliments. However, there is little evidence regarding any positive physiological effects of artificial gardens designed for health. The purpose of this study was to assess the psychological and cardiovascular responses incited by artificial natural environments. Japanese university students (n = 38) participated in a one-group pretest post-test experiment conducted at the Yamaguchi Flower Expo in Japan in October 2018, designed to assess whether exposure to four environments (forest, flowers, ocean, and artificial garden for health) influenced heart rate variability measures. After pretesting to determine baseline measurements, participants completed a circuit through the four natural environments. Following circuit completion, post-testing determined that the low frequency/high frequency ratio was significantly lower in the overall sample and the four areas had similar influences on heart rate variability. Findings suggest that exposure to nature by walking through natural areas and in rooftop artificial gardens might enhance the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
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Communication
Tree Canopy Cover Is Best Associated with Perceptions of Greenspace: A Short Communication
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(18), 6501; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17186501 - 07 Sep 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 886
Abstract
A growing literature has supported a relationship between greenspace and health. Various greenspace metrics exist; some are based on subjective measures while others are based on an objective assessment of the landscape. While subjective measures may better reflect individual feelings about surrounding greenspace [...] Read more.
A growing literature has supported a relationship between greenspace and health. Various greenspace metrics exist; some are based on subjective measures while others are based on an objective assessment of the landscape. While subjective measures may better reflect individual feelings about surrounding greenspace and the resulting positive benefits thereof, they are expensive and difficult to collect. In contrast, objective measures can be derived with relative ease, in a timely fashion, and for large regions and populations. While there have been some attempts to compare objective and subjective measures of greenspace, what is lacking is a comprehensive assessment of a wide range of greenspace metrics against subjective measures of greenspace. We performed such an assessment using a set of three objective greenspace metrics and a survey of residents in Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia. Our study supported existing findings in that overall, there is very little agreement between perceived and objective greenspace metrics. We also found that tree canopy in 10 min walking buffers around residences was the objective greenspace measure in best agreement with perceived greenspace. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
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Article
Detecting the Pedestrian Shed and Walking Route Environment of Urban Parks with Open-Source Data: A Case Study in Nanjing, China
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(13), 4826; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17134826 - 04 Jul 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1110
Abstract
The propensity for visiting urban parks is affected by the park’s attractiveness and travel convenience, where walking provides the most basic and fair access. Walking routes from residences to parks, in terms of duration and perception, have received insufficient attention in the literature, [...] Read more.
The propensity for visiting urban parks is affected by the park’s attractiveness and travel convenience, where walking provides the most basic and fair access. Walking routes from residences to parks, in terms of duration and perception, have received insufficient attention in the literature, particularly in the urban form context in China. Using the case study of Xuanwu Lake Park in Nanjing, we acquire walking routes from residences to the park through open-source data scraping in order to depict the pedestrian shed and pedestrian environment reasonably along these routes. The results show that the walking routes vary significantly with regards to distance, turns, street views, and so on. Proximity to urban parks, in terms of Euclidean distance, does not necessarily correspond to actual route distance, which may have a more direct influence on travel convenience and, hence, visiting propensity. Palpable differences in green visual ratio, image elements, and points of interest along these routes may also contribute to pedestrian environmental disparity. Analyzing data obtained from an online map provides a rapid and objective approach to detect pedestrian sheds and diagnose pedestrian environments, which can facilitate urban planners and policy makers in siting new parks and assessing the service capacity of parks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
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Review

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Review
Time Spent in Nature Is Associated with Increased Pro-Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(14), 7498; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18147498 - 14 Jul 2021
Viewed by 434
Abstract
Urbanization, screen dependency, and the changing nature of childhood and parenting have led to increased time indoors, creating physical and emotional distancing from nature and time spent in natural environments. Substantial evidence from observational and intervention studies indicates that overall time spent in [...] Read more.
Urbanization, screen dependency, and the changing nature of childhood and parenting have led to increased time indoors, creating physical and emotional distancing from nature and time spent in natural environments. Substantial evidence from observational and intervention studies indicates that overall time spent in nature leads to increased perceived value for connectedness to nature and, subsequently, greater pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors (PEAB). This narrative review of the recent literature evaluates associations between time spent in nature with values ascribed to nature and nature connectedness, as well as PEAB. We discuss the influence of nature exposure and education in childhood on subsequent development of PEAB in adulthood. We analyze theoretical frameworks applied to this research as well as metrics employed, populations studied, and individual and societal values before presenting limitations of this research. We conclude with suggestions for future research directions based on current knowledge, underscoring the importance of promoting time spent in nature and PEAB in the face of growing challenges to planetary health. Research indicates that overall time spent in nature, regardless of the quality of environmental conditions, leads to increased perceived values ascribed to nature, which is associated with PEAB; however, this literature is predominantly cross-sectional. Furthermore, personal and social factors may influence PEAB. Thus, more longitudinal studies that consider these factors are needed to assess the duration and frequency of time spent in nature in childhood and its impact on PEAB throughout the life course. Identifying contexts which cultivate PEAB and reverse alienation from nature beginning in childhood may better sensitize adults to the urgency of environmental issues such as climate change, which adversely impact individual and environmental health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
Review
Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(9), 4790; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18094790 - 30 Apr 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1166
Abstract
There is extensive empirical literature on the association between exposure to nature and health. In this narrative review, we discuss the strength of evidence from recent (i.e., the last decade) experimental and observational studies on nature exposure and health, highlighting research on children [...] Read more.
There is extensive empirical literature on the association between exposure to nature and health. In this narrative review, we discuss the strength of evidence from recent (i.e., the last decade) experimental and observational studies on nature exposure and health, highlighting research on children and youth where possible. We found evidence for associations between nature exposure and improved cognitive function, brain activity, blood pressure, mental health, physical activity, and sleep. Results from experimental studies provide evidence of protective effects of exposure to natural environments on mental health outcomes and cognitive function. Cross-sectional observational studies provide evidence of positive associations between nature exposure and increased levels of physical activity and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, and longitudinal observational studies are beginning to assess long-term effects of nature exposure on depression, anxiety, cognitive function, and chronic disease. Limitations of current knowledge include inconsistent measures of exposure to nature, the impacts of the type and quality of green space, and health effects of duration and frequency of exposure. Future directions include incorporation of more rigorous study designs, investigation of the underlying mechanisms of the association between green space and health, advancement of exposure assessment, and evaluation of sensitive periods in the early life-course. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
Review
Measuring Nature Contact: A Narrative Review
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(8), 4092; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18084092 - 13 Apr 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1251
Abstract
While many studies suggest evidence for the health benefits of nature, there is currently no standardized method to measure time spent in nature or nature contact, nor agreement on how best to define nature contact in research. The purpose of this review is [...] Read more.
While many studies suggest evidence for the health benefits of nature, there is currently no standardized method to measure time spent in nature or nature contact, nor agreement on how best to define nature contact in research. The purpose of this review is to summarize how nature contact has been measured in recent health research and provide insight into current metrics of exposure to nature at individual and population scales. The most common methods include surrounding greenness, questionnaires, and global positioning systems (GPS) tracking. Several national-level surveys exist, though these are limited by their cross-sectional design, often measuring only a single component of time spent in nature, and poor links to measures of health. In future research, exposure assessment combining the quantifying (e.g., time spent in nature and frequency of visits to nature) and qualifying (e.g., greenness by the normalized difference of vegetation index (NDVI) and ratings on perception by individuals) aspects of current methods and leveraging innovative methods (e.g., experience sampling methods, ecological momentary assessment) will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the health effects of nature exposure and inform health policy and urban planning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
Review
A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Associations between Green and Blue Spaces and Birth Outcomes
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(8), 2949; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph17082949 - 24 Apr 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1782
Abstract
Previous studies suggest that green and blue spaces may promote several health outcomes including birth outcomes. However, no synthesis of previous work has specifically asked policy-relevant questions of how much and what type is needed in every neighborhood to elicit these benefits at [...] Read more.
Previous studies suggest that green and blue spaces may promote several health outcomes including birth outcomes. However, no synthesis of previous work has specifically asked policy-relevant questions of how much and what type is needed in every neighborhood to elicit these benefits at the population level. A systematic review and meta-analyses were conducted to synthesize thirty-seven studies on the association between residential green and blue spaces and pregnancy outcomes. Meta-analyses were performed for birth weight (BW), small for gestational age (SGA), low birth weight (LBW) and preterm birth (PTB). Increase in residential greenness was statistically significantly associated with higher BW [β = 0.001, 95%CI: (<0.001, 0.002)] and lower odds of SGA [OR = 0.95, 95%CI: (0.92, 0.97)]. Associations between green space and LBW and PTB were as hypothesized but not statistically significant. Associations between blue spaces and pregnancy outcomes were not evident. No study explicitly examined questions of threshold, though some evidence of nonlinearity indicated that moderate amounts of green space may support more favorable pregnancy outcomes. Policy-relevant green and blue space exposures involving theory-driven thresholds warrant testing to ensure future investments in urban greening promote healthier pregnancy outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
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Other

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Systematic Review
The Impact of Schoolyard Greening on Children’s Physical Activity and Socioemotional Health: A Systematic Review of Experimental Studies
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(2), 535; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/ijerph18020535 - 11 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1630
Abstract
Access to green schoolyards (schoolyards designed with greenery and natural elements to create a park-like environment, as opposed to asphalt-based playgrounds) are associated with many benefits for students, including improvements in physical and mental health. While many studies examining these associations are cross-sectional, [...] Read more.
Access to green schoolyards (schoolyards designed with greenery and natural elements to create a park-like environment, as opposed to asphalt-based playgrounds) are associated with many benefits for students, including improvements in physical and mental health. While many studies examining these associations are cross-sectional, some feature experimental designs that offer the possibility of causal inference. In this review, we looked at experimental studies that examine the impact of schoolyard greening on measures of physical activity and socioemotional health in children. Four electronic databases (Ovid Medline, PsycINFO, Scopus and Greenfile) were searched, and from 1843 articles retrieved, 6 articles met the inclusion criteria. Examination of the eligible studies revealed a general consensus on the positive impact of schoolyard greening on both physical activity and socioemotional health outcomes for students, suggesting that schoolyard greening is a viable intervention in reducing the health equity gaps and improving children’s health regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds or residential neighborhood socioeconomic status. Further experimental research on this topic should elucidate how educators, administrators, policy makers, and other stakeholders can harness the benefits of schoolyard greening to improve the health and well-being of children in their communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Greenspaces and Health: Measures and Methods)
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