Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Green spaces help you live longer

"Good neighbourhood green spaces promote longer life expectancy for local people".
so says Stuart Lipton. ex-chair, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) in "The Value of Public Space" (2003). The same report says that: "a walk in the park to aid patients’ health... has been proven to reduce the risk of a heart attack by 50 per cent".

This nonsensical conclusion is arbitrarily culled from Hakim, AA et al (1999) "Efects of walking on coronary heart disease in elderly men: the Honolulu Heart Program" Circulation, Vol 100, pp9-30. This was a study of 2500 men of Japanese descent living in Honolulu and between the ages of 71-93. Their walking habits were assessed against average "life expectancy". The report actually concludes with a social policy objective that "even if walking does not have an independent effect on coronary heart disease, its potential effect through unknown pathways makes it worthy of promotion". Health trrends in Hawaii however, simply notes that: "Gains in life expectancy every 10 years mirror major developments in public health and medicine... the largest life expectancy increase, of almost four years, ocurred between 1970 and 1980".

At its most basic level, to draw a parallel between octogenarians strolling for unspecified amounts of time, over unknown terrain, in Honolulu ought not be turned into a generalist statement that a walk in the park reduces the risk of heart attacks by 50 per cent. What could this statement possibly mean? Unfortunately, it is now regularly regurgitated in urban design conferences, to justify spending on parks and green spaces. Arguing for a park, without the "research shows" label, it seems, would be too difficult.

1 comment:

  1. We covered a similar study at http://www.climate-resistance.org/2008/11/let-them-eat-shrubbery.html after reseach lead to headlines that there was "Proof at last: living near parks and woodland boosts health, regardless of social class."