Urban greenness has unequal effects on the mental health of men and women


New research suggested that women are more likely to have mental health benefits from urban greenness than men, however they are less likely to use the spaces due to safety concerns.

The study, published in the journal, Health & Place, was led by researchers at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). Through a systematic review, researchers in this study sought to understand how green spaces within urban areas benefit the mental health of individuals depending on their sex and gender.

According to the paper’s authors, previous research on the topic suggested that compared to men, women are more likely to have improved mental health outcomes when they have access to green spaces for walking and leisure. In addition, researchers indicated that women may use green spaces less frequently than men because of gender norms and social roles.

"It could also be explained by the fact that the quality and characteristics of these spaces are not designed and planned for women the same way as they are for men,” said Marta-Beatriz Fernández Núñez, MA, researcher at ICTA-UAB and first author of the study.

According to the study’s authors, park planners need to survey a diverse group of residents when designing urban green spaces and address their needs and wants.

"For example, addressing environmental and social cues in parks through better maintenance and design could help mitigate some of the most pressing safety issues for women," said Fernandez-Nunez.

In addition to advocating for new planning programs that include more safety features, the authors of the review said that existing scientific literature does not use the adequate terminology when referring to sex and gender and mental health outcomes.

Researchers suggested that future studies should take a more in-depth look at the relationship between urban greenness and society gender differences associated with mental health and use the correct terminology when referring to gender and mental health issues.