There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that green spaces may positively influence psychological well-being. This project is designed to take advantage of a natural experiment where planned physical and social interventions to enhance access to natural environments in deprived communities provide an opportunity to prospectively assess impacts on perceived stress and mental well-being.

The primary aim of this study is to understand the impacts on perceived stress and mental well-being of physical and social forestry interventions in woodlands adjacent to deprived urban populations. Differential impacts on baseline psychological health status by gender and other demographic/individual characteristics will be investigated, and the research will assess changes in access to, and use of, forests, green spaces and other environmental resources created and improved by the WIAT process.

The study involves a repeat cross-sectional survey of residents living within 1.5 km of intervention and comparison sites. Three waves of data will be collected: pre-physical environment intervention (2013); post-physical environment intervention (2014) and post-woodland promotion social intervention (2015). The primary outcome will be a measure of perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale) pre-intervention and post-intervention. Secondary, self-reported outcomes include mental well-being, changes in physical activity, health, perception and use of the woodlands, connectedness to nature, social cohesion and social capital.

An environmental audit will complement the study by evaluating the physical changes in the environment over time and recording any other contextual changes over time. A process evaluation will assess the implementation of the programme. A health economics analysis will assess the cost consequences of each stage of the intervention in relation to the primary and secondary outcomes of the study.

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