Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit
The relationship between forests, health and inequalities: A longitudinal approach
Jennifer Thomson (Univ of Edinburgh)
Jamie Pearce (Univ of Edinburgh)
Niamh Shortt (Univ of Edinburgh)
Catharine Ward Thompson (Univ of Edinburgh)
Liz O'Brien (Forest Research)
8 Dec 2015
Evidence suggests that exposure to forests is associated with improved health outcomes and reduced health inequalities. Studies have shown that living near forests and visiting forests can provide opportunities for relaxation, exercise and enhanced quality of life (Ward Thompson & Aspinall 2011). Having a view of a forest environment in comparison to built environments has also been linked to reducing stress (Lee et al. 2009) and supporting rehabilitation from surgery (Ulrich 1984). Studies have suggested that forests may have a role in improving health particularly for those living in deprived neighbourhoods and reducing socioeconomic health inequalities (Mitchell & Popham 2008). Suggested causal mechanisms for the health benefits of forests include the restorative effects of viewing and engaging with nature, the opportunity for social interaction, and the opportunity for physical activity (Hartig et al. 2014).
Although the evidence is increasing, most work to date has relied on the use of cross-sectional data, which is limited as it only provides insight to the relationship at a certain point in time. This study aims to advance on the current evidence by examining the association between forests and health from 1991 to 2011 using longitudinal health and forestry data.
Hartig, T. et al., 2014. Nature and health. Annual review of public health, 35, pp.207–28. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24387090 [Accessed July 10, 2014].
Lee, J. et al., 2009. Restorative effects of viewing real forest landscapes, based on a comparison with urban landscapes. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 24(3), pp.227–234. Available at: http://ezproxy.lib.ed.ac.uk/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= aph&AN=42120660&site=eds-live
Mitchell, R. & Popham, F., 2008. Effect of exposure to natural environment on health inequalities: an observational population study. Lancet, 372(9650), pp.1655–1660. Available at: http://ezproxy.lib.ed.ac.uk/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db= bah&AN=35231808&site=eds-live
Ulrich, R.S., 1984. VIEW THROUGH A WINDOW MAY INFLUENCE RECOVERY FROM SURGERY. Science, 224(4647), pp.420–421. Available at:
Ward Thompson, C. & Aspinall, P. a., 2011. Natural Environments and their Impact on Activity, Health, and Quality of Life. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(3), pp.230–260. Available at: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01053.x [Accessed February 5, 2015].