Health effects related to residential greenness

Projects at the Unit of Environmental Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM)

Healthy outdoor environments

Today, the majority of the world´s population lives in cities. Consequently, the characteristics of urban environments directly contribute to the health determinants for the majority of the planet’s citizens. Increasing the amount of urban green structure has been identified as a crucial strategy for sustainable urban development. However, as the densification of major cities is presently a high priority, the physical space available for green structure may actually decrease. Growing epidemiological evidence, suggests a strong positive effect of urban green structure on public health prevention. However, the underlying mechanistic links between green space exposure and health outcomes are still widely debated. The project aims to investigate the association between observed individual green space exposure and various health characteristics in adults in Stockholm, and in this way clarify the underlying, physiological and behavioral links of these associations. Through extensive field study that includes GPS-tracking, estimation of daily green structure exposure (GIS), tissue sampling; and sleep, physical activity and blood pressure monitoring in 500 individuals, we will investigate the effect of daily urban green space exposure on a) weight, b) cortisol levels, c) sleep pattern, d) blood pressure e) systemic inflammation markers f) activity patterns.



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Healthy outdoor environments and Covid-19

Green and blue environments are suggested to have a relaxing effect, allowing people to recover from demanding situations. It is plausible that green space affects the brain and body via psycho-endocrine mechanisms, including the function of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Another, often-mentioned, behavioral pathway linking green/blue environments and health is the motivation for physical activity. Abundant vegetation and bodies of water provide an inviting setting for physical activity, which has a well-established positive impact on both physical and mental health. Studies conducted in different parts of the world have reported that recreational walking, increased physical activity and reduced sedentary time are associated with the use of and access to green and blue space, particularly among certain groups such as dog owners. The aims of this project is to a) investigate if Covid-19 pandemic has changed the routines of physical activity and visiting natural environments in urban and sub-urban populations of Stockholm County; and b) explore whether an increased exposure to greenness, during Covid-19 pandemic, affects mental health outcomes of Stockholm population. We conducted a web-survey among a random sample of men and women in Stockholm County during June-July 2020. The collected data from 2060 respondents is presently processed and prepared for publication.

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Anna Persson