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Vitamin G : Green environments - Healthy environments

By J. Maas

Abstract

The shortest summary of the thesis is in its title “Vitamin G”, where the G stands for the green space around us and Vitamin stands for the possible positive relationship between green space and people’s health. In the first part of this thesis we investigate whether green space in people’s living environment is positively related to their health. We found that green space is related to perceived general health as well as to morbidity. People with more green space in their living environment feel healthier and less often visit the General Practitioner with complaints like depression, diabetes and COPD. In the second part of this thesis we investigate whether the relation between green space and health can be explained by mechanisms related to exposure and behaviour. Concerning exposure, we examined, the extent to which the presence of green space close to and further away from the home can buffer the adverse impact of stressful life events on self-reported general, mental and physical health. The results indicate that green space within the wider living environment acts as a buffer against the adverse impact of stressful life events on self-reported physical health. Regarding behaviour, we investigated whether physical activity and social contacts are possible mechanisms behind the relation between green space and health. However, physical activity does not seem to be a mechanism behind the relation between green space and health. People with more green space in their living environment did not more or less often meet the Dutch public health recommendations for physical activity. Social contacts, on the other hand, partly and in some cases even completely mediated the relation between green space and health. People with more green space in their living environment feel less lonely and less often experience a shortage of social support. In the third part of the thesis, we investigated the relationship between the amount of green space in the living environment and feelings of social safety. The results suggest that the amount of green space in people’s living environment is generally positively associated with enhanced feelings of social safety. Only in very strongly urban areas the amount of green space in the living environment was found to be negatively associated with feelings of social safety. In the last part of the thesis we investigated whether the health benefits of green space are used in health care settings. More specifically, we investigated the extent to which general practitioners advise patients on physical activity and whether they refer to the additional health benefits of physical activity in a natural environment. Although advice on physical activity was given by general practitioners during 26% of all consultations, the additional benefits of physical activity in natural environments were not mentioned by GPs during any of the consultations. This part of the thesis shows that there are opportunities to increase the use of green space in the health care sector

Topics: International (English)
Publisher: NIVEL
Year: 2009
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/31946
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