Woods in and Around Towns (WIAT): influences on psychological wellbeing in deprived urban areas – a four-year longitudinal assessment of the effectiveness of Forestry Commission Scotland’s Woods In and Around Towns (WIAT) programme to improve quality of life in deprived communities along Scotland’s ‘central belt’. Funded by the NIHR this project is looking specifically at the impact of WIAT on the psychological wellbeing and stress levels of people living in deprived urban communities.
Running from 2012 to 2016, it involves researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh (lead), Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Queen Mary (London) and Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York.
Aims and Objectives:
The project aims to understand the role of green infrastructure on human health and wellbeing. The objective of the study is to answer the primary research question:
- What is the impact of the WIAT programme of interventions on mental health (as measured by patterns and levels of stress) in the community?Secondary research questions will be addressed in support of this objective:
- Is any impact on mental health associated with a change in levels of engagement with the woodland environment (physical and/or visual) after WIAT intervention?
- What is the impact of the intervention on length and frequency of visits to local woods, experience of local woods, awareness of them (knowledge of their qualities and availability for use), activities undertaken there, visual contact with woodland, sense of connectedness to nature, community cohesion and connectedness, and physical activity levels?
- ivAre changes to the physical woodland environment sufficient to have an impact on mental health and/or woodland awareness and use by the community or are organised activities such as led walks and other promotional initiatives also required?
- Are there gender differences in the impacts of the interventions?
- Are there differences in patterns of woodland use, and in impacts of the interventions, according to distance of woodlands from participants’ homes, and is there any distance threshold for impacts?
- What are the cost consequences of each stage of the intervention (including time input from FCS rangers and community participants) in relation to the primary and secondary outcomes of the study?
The findings of this research are aimed at researchers, policy makers, planners and managers in public health, environmental studies, urban design, landscapearchitecture, forestry and natural resources, geography and economics. They will also be of relevance to the NHS, local authorities, private and public sector and voluntary sector organisations.
External Website: NIHR webpage http://www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/projects/phr/10300518