Chrissie, Parker

Start date:
October 2017
Research Topic:
Examining the causal mechanisms of improvements to health and wellbeing associated with blue green spaces a mixed methods approach
Research Supervisor:
Dr Sarah Rodgers, Dr Alison Porter
Supervising school:
Swansea University Medical School,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship
External Sponsor:
Farr Institute

Existing scientific evidence suggests that green-blue space (‘GBS’, such as parks, woodlands and beaches) may be beneficial for population health and wellbeing (Bowler et al. 2010; Gascon, 2015; Hartig et al. 2014). However, robust evidence is relatively limited, and cannot fully inform national and local policies that shape our living environments. In this project I will work alongside an NIHR Public Health Research Programme funded study applying a large-scale population approach, considering the majority of Wales’ environment and population, and changes over time. I will seek to establish how changes in the environment impact on people’s health and wellbeing. This could be from moving to a greener area, the “greening” of a residential area, or removal of green areas through housing developments. I will explore some of the possible mechanisms for the beneficial effects of green-blue space on health and wellbeing by using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative techniques.

I will use the National Survey for Wales (NSW) datasets for 2015, 2016 and 2017, which are linked at the individual level into the SAIL databank; an anonymised databank containing routinely collected health and environment data. The NSW dataset questions about use of green spaces will be used to test the effects of active engagement with these spaces on individual-level wellbeing, (Tennant et al. 2007) also collected for the same people in the NSW, and common mental health disorders (CMD) (John et al. 2016). I will extract CMD outcomes from the SAIL databank and will develop my data linkage and extraction/manipulation skills to create an analysis-ready dataset for the Swansea/South Wales region. I will enhance my statistical skills to enable me to analyse the dataset using multi-level modelling to answer research questions about use of green space versus “ambient” green space in their small residential area; by Lower Super Output Area. I will use methods including multi-level modelling to account for clustering of health conditions through time for individuals, and the clustering of individuals within the same small area. I will use a number of potential confounding variables available in the NSW, and those available in the routine data, to account for social, deprivation, environmental and other differences between people that may impact on associations between green space use and wellbeing.

Working alongside the NIHR funded Green Blue Space project my study will complement this large-scale population approach by utilising qualitative enquiry techniques with small groups to explore and understand the potential mechanisms through which health and wellbeing benefits accrue.

References
Bowler, et al. (2010) A systematic review of the evidence for added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments.
Gascon, M. (2015) Mental health benefits of long-term exposure to residential green and blue spaces – a systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 12(4) p 4354 – 4379.
Hartig, T., Mitchell, R., Vries, S.d. and Frumkin, H. (2014) Nature and Health. Annual Review of Public Health. 35(1), pp.20. -228.

http://www.itv.com/news/wales/2017-09-21/can-spending-time-outdoors-improve-our-mental-health/