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Green space and pregnancy outcomes: Evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

Summary


Increased exposure to green space may prove helpful in improving gestational age of newborns for women with a low level of education

This study investigated whether exposure of pregnant women to green space near their homes is associated with an increase in birth weight and gestational age in their infants after accounting a number of factors, including socioeconomic status. This study was conducted in New Zealand with over 5000 mother-newborn pairs representing a wide range of socioeconomic, ethnic and urban/rural diversity.

Data about the newborns and their mothers — obtained from the Growing Up in New Zealand study — included demographic and health-related information, as well as measures of green space exposure. There were significant differences in terms of green space exposure between urban and rural residents, with the amount of green space being higher in rural areas than in urban areas. There were also differences in green space exposure based on ethnicity and level of education. European women were exposed to higher surrounding greenness than non-European women; and women with higher levels of education were exposed to higher surrounding greenness than women with lesser education. There were no significant differences in exposure to green space between different maternal age groups. There were differences, however, in green space exposure and neighborhood deprivation, with green space decreasing as deprivation levels increased.

Overall, there were no significant differences in birth outcomes relating to birth weight and gestational age for differing levels of exposure to green space. An analysis by subgroups, however, did identify differences. Green space exposure for women with a low level of formal education was associated with improved gestational age, an important determinant of infant health. This association was not found for women with a high level of education. There was no significant association between green space exposure and birth weight. The authors hypothesized that the women of low educational status were more likely to make use of, and therefore benefit from, the green space that was available near their home, compared to women of higher educational status who might be more likely to visit distant green space areas.

These findings indicate that green space may not be an important determinant of either birth weight or gestational age when considering the population as a whole. However, for women with a low level of education, green space near home may be an important determinant of gestational age. Thus, the provision of exposure to green space might prove beneficial in terms of increasing gestational age for women with a low level of formal education.

Citation

Nichani, V., Kirks, K., Burns. B., Bird, A., Morton, S., Grant, C., (2017). Green space and pregnancy outcomes: Evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand. Health & Place, 46, 21-28.

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