Visiting urban green space exposure has been shown to boost the immune system and mental health, and reduce the risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases

Added March 26, 2020

Citation: World Health Organization. Urban green spaces and health: a review of evidence. 2016.

What is this? The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closing of some leisure facilities, bars, restaurants, cafes and, with the need to self-isolate and socially distance, parks and green spaces have become an important resource for potential health and wellbeing benefits.

This 2016 review was commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to evaluate existing evidence on the health effects of green space in urban areas.  It includes evidence from previous WHO reviews, reviews by other researchers and research studies that had been recently published.  The review included all definitions of urban green space (e.g. natural surfaces, natural settings, urban greenery, blue space (water elements), parks, private gardens, woodlands).

What works: Visiting the natural environment and coming into contact with certain physical and/or chemical factors in green space can benefit the immune system.

Having contact with nature can be restorative and have mental health benefits, shifting those with high stress levels to a more positive emotional state, enhancing relaxation and e alleviating symptoms of depression.

Use of green space is associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

What doesn’t work: People with allergies and asthma should balance the benefits of using green spaces with the risk from pollution and allergens.

What’s uncertain: At the time of review, there was no available evidence regarding the use of urban green space and social distancing. Amidst this uncertainty, individuals should follow the relevant government guidelines.



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