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Urban green spaces associated with positive health, social, environmental outcomes

Hunter R, Cleland C, Cleary A, Droomers M, Wheeler B, Sinnett D, Nieuwenhuijsen M, Braubach M. Environmental, health, wellbeing, social and equity effects of urban green space interventions: A meta-narrative evidence synthesis Environment International. 2019; 104923.

Review question

      What are the health, wellbeing, social, environmental, and equity effects (or known influencing factors) of urban green space interventions?


      As populations become increasingly urbanized worldwide, the preservation of urban green space is becoming increasingly important.  

      Urban green spaces are not just dedicated recreational spaces such as public parks, but rather a broader umbrella term for informal green spaces like street-side trees and roof gardens.

      Despite large amounts of survey-based evidence demonstrating a demand for green spaces, little is known about how to design or improve existing urban green spaces for health, wellbeing, social, environmental, and physical benefits.

      This systematic review aims to synthesize the evidence regarding the health, wellbeing, social, environmental and equity effects (or known influencing factors) of urban green space interventions.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a detailed search of eight research databases for eligible studies. The reference lists of relevant papers were further examined by hand to identify additional studies.

      A total of 6,997 articles were retrieved from the initial search, of which 38 were included in this review.

      No conflicts of interest were declared.

What the researchers found

      The overall findings from this review demonstrated evidence to support the provision of urban green space interventions for environmental, health, wellbeing, and social effects.

      There was particularly strong evidence for park-based and trail-related interventions, principally for promoting health and wellbeing through increasing park use and physical activity.

      Evidence also strongly supported the greening of vacant lots for health and wellbeing, as well as social benefits (for example, reduction in crime, increased perceptions of safety). The greening of urban streets was found to be beneficial particularly for environmental benefits (for example, increased biodiversity, reduced illegal dumping).

      While there was some evidence to support the provision of green roofs for environmental benefits (for example, urban cooling), there was little evidence to support the use of park-based interventions that only involved physical change to the urban green space without any activity/intervention component.

      Finally, there was a lack of evidence regarding potential adverse or unintended consequences of developing urban green spaces, the long-term social and economic impact of green projects, or the differential impacts of green space interventions on various equity indicators.


      In conclusion, urban green space has an important role to play in creating a culture of health, including the social health of neighbourhoods and communities.

      Results from this review highlighted evidence regarding the use of certain urban green space interventions for health, social and environmental benefits, particularly park-based and trail-based interventions.

Related Topics


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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