Green Space and Inequities in Healthy Ageing: Are Grasses Greener on the Socioeconomically Advantaged Side?
Despite emerging evidence that green space is beneficial for all, there is little evidence comparing the association of green space with healthy ageing outcomes for people with socioeconomic advantages and those without such privileges. This article investigates the association between green space availability and healthy ageing outcomes for disadvantaged socioeconomic groups relative to privileged counterparts. Green space was classified as grass, low-lying vegetation, and tree canopy. Healthy ageing indices were calculated for 34,085 participants in the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study (baseline 2006-2009), New South Wales, Australia. Partitioning was by socioeconomic and demographic characteristics and the association was assessed using regression analysis. Increasing grass cover was associated with declining health after age 45 years. Increasing low-lying vegetation (>10%) was associated with increased functional capacity but not resilience or healthy ageing. Green space association with the healthy ageing score was higher for widows (β 0.013, 95% CI 0.00-0.03) compared with individuals with a partner (β 0.003, 95% CI 0.00-0.01). Also, the association was higher for participants earning <$20k/annum (β 0.015, 95% CI 0.01-0.02) versus those earning >$70k (β 0.007, 95% CI 0.00-0.01). This beneficial association was higher for participants with no academic qualifications (β 0.021, 95% CI 0.01-0.04) and for participants who are disabled (β 0.028, 95% CI 0.00-0.06) in their respective groups. Green space contributes more to the healthy ageing of disadvantaged groups than affluent groups. Targeted investment in green space provision, especially tree canopy >30%, can be readily leveraged to provide beneficial health outcomes and reduce the effect of socioeconomic disparity for disadvantaged communities.
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