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Approved Research

Examining how greenspace works: which factors deliver the best health and wellbeing

Principal Investigator: Mr Chinonso Odebeatu
Approved Research ID: 94579
Approval date: January 31st 2023

Lay summary

Evidence has suggested that exposure to greenspace may offer beneficial effects on a range of health outcomes. However, limited information is known about its influence on pathological mechanisms. One plausible pathway in which greenspace may exert its positive effect on health is via increased sun exposure, and consequent vitamin D increases with possible benefits for human health and wellbeing. Therefore, we aim to understand how greenspace works by looking at a) the relationship between a specific type of greenspace and i) physical activity; ii) residential air pollution; iii) residential noise pollution iv) social support, and v) psychosocial factors; b) spatial variation of vitamin D levels across the UK; c) the association between residential greenness and vitamin D concentrations; d) the link between greenspace exposure, vitamin D levels and risk of cardiorespiratory diseases, diabetes and obesity using system dynamic models.

The UK biobank study was designed to progress the prevention, management, and treatment of several life-threatening diseases, and our proposed research closely aligns with this goal. Given the limited information on which markers and exposures linked to greenspace are dominant and the pathological pathways through which greenspace impacts a range of health outcomes, a large dataset like this one will provide a unique opportunity to better understand this relationship and trial sophisticated modelling approaches (spatial and system dynamic models) while taking into account a range of risk/ confounding factors. The research will include the full UK Biobank cohort. Information gotten from our findings will aid policymakers and urban planning in designing greenspace in the future as well as facilitate the usefulness of green prescriptions by healthcare practitioners.

Current Scope

We aim to understand how greenspace works by determining the mechanistic pathways between greenspace and health outcomes. Specifically, our objectives include:

  1. a)           To explore the association of distance to greenspace and specific types of greenspace exposure (e.g., domestic garden and vegetative land cover around participant's home location) with i) physical activity; ii) residential air pollution; iii) residential noise pollution iv) social engagement iv) psychosocial factors.
  2. b)           To examine spatial variation of vitamin D levels across the UK. We will further test whether vitamin D levels measured between 2006 and 2010 differ significantly from the repeat assessment undertaken in the subset of the population between 2012 and 2013.
  3. c)           To investigate the relationship between residential greenspace and vitamin D concentrations in British adults while controlling for confounding factors. We will further adjust for genetic variants (rs2282679, rs12785878, rs10741657, rs6013897), which have been linked to vitamin D deficiency.  
  4. d)           To determine the link between residential greenness, 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, and the risk of cardiovascular events, respiratory diseases, and diabetes in the older England population.
  5. e)           To predict the impacts of total greenspaces versus specific-type of greenspace and vitamin D levels on the prevalence of obesity-related cancers in the UK population.

New Scope

a) The relationship between greenspace and other biomarkers of health outcome (other than vitamin D) including biomarkers of obesity-related cancers.