Contact with green space in the environment has been associated with mental health benefits, but the mechanism underpinning this association is not clear. This study measured stress in 106 men and women not in work aged between 35–55 years, resident in socially disadvantaged districts from the same Scottish urban context as the earlier study. Salivary cortisol concentrations were measured at 3, 6 and 9 hours post awakening over two consecutive weekdays, together with measures of perceived stress.
Results from linear regression analyses showed a significant, negative relationship between higher green space levels and stress levels, indicating living in areas with a higher percentage of green space is associated with lower stress, confirming the earlier study findings. This study also shows significant gender differences, with women in lower green space areas showing higher levels of stress, and a positive effect of higher green space in relation to cortisol measures in women, but not in men. Higher levels of neighbourhood green space were associated with healthier mean cortisol levels in women whilst also attenuating higher cortisol levels in men.
The study concludes that higher levels of green space in residential neighbourhoods, for this deprived urban population of middle-aged men and women not in work, are linked with lower perceived stress and a steeper (healthier) diurnal cortisol decline. However, overall patterns and levels of cortisol secretion in men and women were differentially related to neighbourhood green space and warrant further investigation.
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