From about July 2007, more of the world’s population has lived in urban areas than rural. There’s increasing recognition that elements of the environment in which we live can benefit human health. Parks and larger preserves in urban areas are demonstrated to be important. But what about smaller plots, like domestic gardens?
Gardening is, of course, a healthy activity physically and mentally. Restorative spaces in hospital settings are known to be good. But can domestic gardens be tied to better human health?
To find out, researchers at the University of Salford looked at datasets across four landscape types in Northwest England. They looked at land cover data and Index of Multiple Depravation data (includes health, income, education, skills, etc.).
Total area covered by gardens increased when looking at a gradient from rural to urban, dropping in the most highly urbanized spaces. However, the weakest association between positive health and domestic gardens and green space and health was in suburban areas even though there are more domestic gardens there. Once you move into the depths of the city, the picture changes.
In the densest area, domestic gardens were demonstrated to have a greater effect on human health than green space. The denser the area, the more important domestic gardens become for health. The authors extrapolate that smaller urban gardens and smaller urban community projects are likely to provide the greatest benefits to the most people because they also provide biodiversity and recreation.
Further, converting existing “under productive” green space to community gardens could promote community health, especially in the densest areas. These spaces could also provide alternatives to domestic gardens in those areas where domestic gardens are infeasible.
Data used did not parse between how gardens or green space was comprised—food production, lawn, etc. Nor did data about depravation parse between specific indications of health like obesity, morbidity, etc. There’s still plenty of work to be done to gain a fuller understanding of the positive relationship between domestic gardens and human health in cities.
Landscape and Urban Planning
January 3, 2017 NewTerrain.