World Health Day 2023

This year’s World Health Day theme is ‘health for all’, and MaREI PhD researcher Anna O’Regan from University College Cork discusses her research on greenspace exposure and health benefits.

Our research harnesses Google Street View imagery to quantify urban greenspace in high spatial resolution. Our first study (Biophilic Cities – Quantifying the Impact of Google Street View-Derived Greenspace Exposures on Socioeconomic Factors and Self-Reported Health) found strong links between higher greenspace exposures and better self-reported health and our second study (Associations between Google Street View-derived urban greenspace metrics and air pollution measured using a distributed sensor network) found that higher levels of greenspace were associated with lower levels of particulate matter air pollution. Air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk and in Ireland it is attributed to 1,300 premature deaths per year. 

Previous studies have found links between higher levels of greenspace and higher rates of physical activity and low-carbon mobility which has both physical and mental health benefits.

Our study adds to previous findings as it enables greenspace to be mapped along the road networks. This allows urban residents to maximise their exposure to greenspace by choosing high green routes, which would have health benefits. Our research can also guide city authorities and urban planning decision-making, prioritising the development of “safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces” – UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal.