Who benefits from nature in cities? Social inequalities in access to urban green and blue spaces across Europe

The European Environment Agency have released a briefing to review the evidence of socio-economic and demographic inequalities in access to the health benefits derived from urban green and blue spaces across Europe. Parks, urban forests, tree-lined streets and riverbanks support urban well-being by providing space for rest, relaxation and exercise, and by keeping temperatures down. However, not everyone across Europe enjoys equal access to green space in cities. It showcases examples of green spaces that were designed to meet the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged social groups.

Key messages:
  • The health benefits of urban green space are well recognised for children, whose physical and mental development is enhanced by living, playing and learning in green environments. The elderly also benefit significantly from visiting green and blue spaces, through improved physical health and social well-being.
  • Access to green and blue spaces differs across Europe. Overall, cities in the north and west of Europe have more total green space within their area than cities in southern and eastern Europe. Green areas that are publicly accessible form a relatively low share of the total green space, but the provision of publicly accessible green space is location specific and varies between cities.
  • Within cities, the degree of greening varies across neighbourhoods, with less and lower quality green space typically found in communities of lower socio-economic status.
  • The World Health Organization recommends that all people reside within 300m of green space. In contrast, national and local recommendations vary across Europe. Guidance on access for specific vulnerable groups is rare.
  • Targeted action to reduce inequalities in access to high-quality green space can maximise the health and well-being benefits of nature in cities.
  • Involving local communities in the design and management of green space has been found to foster a sense of ownership and promote use.

Read the full publication (in English) here. 

Governmental / Institutional / Public Health Statutory Body Document, Policy & Policy Analysis, Research
Built environment (housing, transport, urban planning), Environment, climate change, Non-communicable diseases, alcohol, nutrition, obesity, cancer, smoking, physical activity

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