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Population and Environment

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 171–193 | Cite as

Linking green space to health: a comparative study of two urban neighbourhoods in Ghent, Belgium

  • Ann Van HerzeleEmail author
  • Sjerp de Vries
Original Paper

Abstract

This paper investigates the nature of the relationship between the greenness of the local environment and the health and well-being of its inhabitants by looking at a number of possible mediators within the same study: physical activity, perceived stress, ability to concentrate, social cohesion and neighbourhood satisfaction. Data were collected through a survey of residents in two neighbourhoods that differ objectively in green space provision, but which are largely similar in demographics, socio-economic factors, housing conditions and other environmental characteristics, apart from green space. Of the three dependent variables of interest: self-reported general health, bodily functioning and general well-being (happiness), it was self-reported happiness that differed significantly between the two neighbourhoods, with greater happiness in the greener neighbourhood. Amongst the possible mediators, people’s satisfaction with their neighbourhood differed significantly: those living in the greener neighbourhood were more satisfied. Mediation analysis indicated that neighbourhood satisfaction fully mediates the relationship between neighbourhood greenness and happiness. Among the specific (environmental and social) neighbourhood qualities asked about, perception of neighbourhood greenness was found to be the most important predictor of neighbourhood satisfaction. Additional analysis showed that the view from the living room—green or not green—fully mediates the relationship between neighbourhood greenness and neighbourhood satisfaction. This study underscores the importance of nearby green space for people’s overall well-being and suggests the need for green space to be evaluated in terms of visual proximity, that is, whether and how it is experienced from the street and the home.

Keywords

Urban environment Nearby nature Happiness Neighbourhood satisfaction Green view 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The survey was funded by the Flemish Centre of Expertise on Environment and Health. We thank Julie De Wit for her contributions to the neighbourhood selection and survey administration. Thanks also go to the anonymous reviewers. Their comments helped improve the paper greatly.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Department of Human EcologyFree University of BrusselsBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO)BrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Landscape CentreWageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands

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