Urbanising doses of nature

Cox, D.T.C., Shanahan, D.F., Hudson, H.L., Fuller, R.A. & Gaston, K.J. 2018. The impact of urbanisation on nature dose and the implications for human health. Landscape and Urban Planning 179, 72-80. 

The last 100 years have seen a huge change in the global structure of the human population, with the majority of people now living in urban rather than rural environments. An assumed consequence is that people will have fewer experiences of nature, and this could have important consequences given the myriad health benefits that they can gain from such experiences. Alternatively, as experiences of nature become rarer, people might be more likely actively to seek them out, mitigating the negative effects of urbanisation. In this study, we used data for 3,000 survey respondents from across the UK, and a nature-dose framework, to determine whether (a) increasing urbanisation is associated with a decrease in the frequency, duration and intensity of nature dose; and (b) differences in nature exposure associated with urbanisation impact on four population health outcomes (depression, self-reported health, social cohesion and physical activity). We found negative exponential relationships between nature dose and the degree of urbanisation. The frequency and duration of dose decreased from rural to suburban environments, followed by little change with further increases in urbanisation. There were weak but positive associations between frequency and duration of dose across all four health domains, while different dimensions of dose showed more positive associations with specific health domains in towns and cities. We show that people in urban areas with a low nature dose tend to have worse health across multiple domains, but have the potential for the greatest gains from spending longer in nature, or living in green areas.