Research Journal: Wellbeing and Urban Green Spaces

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, 2005) linked human wellbeing to services provided by ecosystems, categorising these ecosystem services as provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services.  Food production is an example of a fundamental provisioning service, and is underpinned by supporting services such as nutrient cycling. Regulating services incorporate water absorption for flood prevention and carbon cycling as a regulator of climate change (Cao & Woodward, 1998).  Cultural services include recreational environments, which have links to physical and mental health (Lee et al., 2015).

Ecosystem services impact on human wellbeing at a global level. They also have direct effects on a local scale, which can vary widely across different geographic and socio-economic settings. Health inequities within and between countries have been found largely to be a result of varying social determinants of health, which include development agendas and environmental conditions, as well as economic policies and systems, social norms and policies, and political systems (WHO, 2016).

There is potential for tackling health inequities by increasing access to ecosystem services.  For example, access to cultural ecosystem services may be increased through “green care” or “green exercise” programmes (Pretty, 2006; Hine, 2008). These nature-based interventions for health and wellbeing may result in increased connectedness to nature (Mayer & Frantz 2004). In addition to providing mental and physical health benefits, they may encourage more responsible behaviour towards the environment, thus fostering the continued provision of ecosystem services.

My research, carried out within the Centre for Systems Studies at Hull University Business School, under the supervision of Professor Yasmin Merali and Dr. Fernando Correia examines the potential for harnessing benefits from urban nature through the commissioning of green prescriptions by health practitioners in the City of Hull. My academic publications are shared via ResearchGate, Academia.edu and Hydra (University of Hull’s digital repository).

Cao, M., Woodward, F.I. (1998) Dynamic responses of terrestrial ecosystem carbon cycling to global climate change. Nature, 393, 249-252

Hine, R., Peacock, J. & Pretty, J. (2008) Care farming in the UK: Contexts, benefits and links with therapeutic communities. Therapeutic Communities, 29(3), 245-260.

Lee A.C., Jordan H.C. & Horsley J. (2015) Value of urban green spaces in promoting healthy living and wellbeing: prospects for planning. Risk management and healthcare policy, 8, 131-137

Mayer, F.S., Frantz, C.M. (2004) The connectedness to nature scale: A measure of individuals’ feeling in community with nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24(4), 503-515

MEA (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Washington, DC. Available at: http://www.millenniumassessment.org

Pretty, J., Hine, R. & Peacock, J. (2006) Green Exercise: The benefits of activities in green places. The Biologist, 53, 143–148

WHO (2016) Social Determinants of Health. Available at: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/en/