Green spaces, social dimensions, and health & mortality

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis


Climate change and urban growth may act as drivers of non-communicable
diseases. Moreover, global population is ageing. It is therefore crucial to
anticipate and design the environments of the future to minimize these
risks and promote healthy ageing. Being exposed to green spaces could
encompass benefits for health, as it may induce psychological restoration,
reduce stress, promote physical activity and social cohesion, and mitigate
environmental hazards. However, the exposure and benefits of urban green
spaces may not be evenly distributed across the population.
In this thesis we investigated the links between residential green spaces
and health and mortality in urban areas in Belgium. Moreover, we drew
particular attention to whether and how environmental exposures and their
health consequences are potentially shaped by individual and
neighbourhood social dimensions. We furthermore evaluated the role of
air pollution in these associations.
To investigate these questions, we used a large and rich dataset consisting
of a linkage between the 2001 Belgian census, register mortality data for a
follow-up period over 10 years, and high-resolution environmental
information linked at the geocoded residential address of each participant.
Our findings suggest that exposure to green spaces in urban areas in
Belgium is associated to better self-perceived health and reduces the risk
of mortality from natural causes, diabetes mellitus, neurodegenerative
diseases and lung and breast cancer. Moreover, we generally found the
strongest associations among women and socioeconomically deprived
In conclusion, the findings of this thesis suggest that green spaces may be
a key health promoting feature of the living environment in Belgium,
especially for disadvantaged social groups. This might be relevant for the
implementation of greening strategies in cities, which should consider
social disparities in the population to ensure sustainability and inclusivity.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Gadeyne, Sylvie, Supervisor
  • Casas, Lidia, Supervisor, External person
Award date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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