Proof at last: living near parks and woodland boosts health, regardless of social class. Access to green spaces, whether they be rolling chalk downs or simple playing fields, has an independently beneficial impact on health and health-related behaviour which counteracts the effects of poverty and inner-city deprivation, the research by scientists found.
The links between serious illnesses and poverty are well established, but this is the first time scientists have systematically shown that the health gap between rich and poor can be halved with the help of green spaces.
When all deaths were analysed, the gulf in health between the rich and the poor in the greenest areas of Britain was roughly half of that observed in the least green parts of the country, according to the findings published in the medical journal The Lancet.
The difference between those living in the greenest and least green areas was largest when looking at deaths from circulatory diseases.
However, the scientists found that living near green space had little effect for death from lung cancer, which is only weakly linked with exercise; or for death by self-harming.
The authors of the study, Richard Mitchell, of Glasgow University, and Frank Popham, of the University of St Andrews, believe that the findings are strong enough for planning authorities to consider making green spaces available on grounds of health and wellbeing.
The two scientists assessed the entire population of England under the retirement age – a total of 41…