Neighbourhood greenspace and mental health in youth living in London: Does the type of greenspace matter? Our findings are inconclusive but suggest that some spaces could be more ‘beneficial’ than others.

For the attention of: Policymakers for city and town planning and development, urban planners, urban designers, public health practitioners.

The problem: The evidence suggests that there is a link between greenspace and health. However, most studies to date use a generic measure of greenspace quantity or greenness, not distinguishing between different types of greenspace or vegetation. To be able to inform policy and planning, we need to understand ‘what works best’ and for whom.

What we did and why: To add more nuance to our understanding, we investigated the role of different types of greenspace in the mental health and well-being of youth living in London. We distinguished between ‘any green land cover’, ‘parks & gardens’, ‘natural & semi-natural urban greenspaces’, and ‘outdoor sports facilities’, and calculated proportions in 500m around adolescents’ postcodes. We then linked these exposures to mental health and well-being outcomes in 10- to 15-year-old adolescents.

What our study adds: This study adds to an evolving stream in the literature, not only assessing the role of mere quantity of (any) greenspace but distinguishing between different types of greenspace. In this study, findings were inconclusive, however, we identified interesting patterns. For example, parks & gardens and outdoor sports facilities seemed to be more ‘beneficial’ than natural & semi-natural urban greenspaces. Overall, however, no clear conclusions can be drawn, and further studies are needed to shed light on the nuances of associations.

Implications for city policy and practice: This study is only one contribution to an evolving stream in the literature. More studies are needed to shed light on the nuances of the associations of greenspace with health in general, and with mental health in adolescents in particular. It is important to remember that there are many types of greenspace and many different demographics. Ideally, at some point, we will have a better idea of ‘what works for whom’ to make more informed policy and planning decisions

Full research article: Types of greenspace and adolescent mental health and well-being in metropolitan London by Marie Mueller, Emily Midouhas and Eirini Flouri.