Built and natural environments

A photo of roads through a thick cloud of fog

Our work on built and natural environments draws heavily on the evaluation of natural experimental studies. We, like others, have failed to find evidence that the environmental change achieved meaningful change in population health. For example, our study exploring the impacts of the M74 motorway extension through central Glasgow found that the new motorway did not alter rates of road traffic accidents, nor did it affect their spatial location or socio-economic context.

Currently we are detecting and quantifying built and natural environment change, at scale using Ordnance Survey digital map data. Soon we will publish an atlas of environment change for Scotland.

We research natural environments too. In collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of Virginia, we assessed impacts of a Forestry Commission scheme to enhance access to local woodlands in deprived urban areas on stress, physical activity and contact with nature (WIAT study). This large NIHR-funded controlled natural experiment was the first study of its kind. Results found no positive impact on stress but did find increases to physical activity levels and contact with natural environments generally.

Our other studies on built and natural environments include GoWell, which examined the regeneration across 15 of the most deprived communities in Glasgow, and ENABLE London study, which focused on the impact of environmental change linked to London’s Olympics in 2012. We are also part of inter-University research groups and centres such as the Centre for Research on Environment Society and Health (CRESH) and the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC).

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