About the Project
Intuitively, many of us may realize that outdoor green spaces are good for our mental well-being. Imagine it is mid-July and you are walking through a park. The only sound is the rustling of the wind through leaves. Imagine sitting on a bench under some trees to catch up with a good friend. If these scenarios made you feel calmer and happier, it aligns with existing evidence linking green space and mental health. Although certain neighbourhoods in the City of Toronto may have high quantities of green space, these spaces may be of poor quality – with litter and poor amenities. Or these spaces may be fenced off, limiting access to the space.
In Toronto, the Urban Health Equity Assessment and Reporting Tool (Urban HEART) was used to identify 31 Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIAs) to focus on for revitalization initiatives through the Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy. The measurement of green space by Toronto’s Urban HEART is only about quantity, not quality. Better decisions about green space could be made by having a quality measure of green space. To truly create strong neighbourhoods in the City of Toronto, we need to continue to broaden our understanding of the nuanced factors in the built environment that impact our health.
This project aims to identify specific aspects of green space (including quantity, quality, and access) that have demonstrated effects on the mental health of various populations. By considering various populations, including immigrants, seniors, and low-income groups, it will be possible to assess this issue with an equity lens on the social determinants of health.
About the Research Methods
1) A quantitative data analysis will examine existing Toronto Urban HEART Data. The analysis will focus on answering the following questions:
- What is the association between quantity of green space and self-reported mental health in Toronto’s neighbourhoods?
- How is the association modified by different determinants of health, such as:
- income groups?
- walk score?
2) A scoping review of reviews will bring together existing evidence on the aspects of green space that are associated with mental health.
- To develop a framework to understand how quantity and quality of and access to green space influence mental health
- To collate a set of evidence-informed green space quality indicators that can promote mental health
3) Walk Labs will focus on working with key stakeholders from different sectors to build consensus and adapt the framework and set of indicators to the Toronto context.
This project uses applied research and integrated knowledge translation methods to develop an evidence-informed guide to help create mental health-promoting green spaces in Toronto. The project aims to contribute to the larger goal of urban equity for all residents across Toronto’s neighbourhoods.
February 2016 – How Toronto’s Green Spaces Promote Mental Health
October 2016 – Green Paths to Mental Health Walk Lab
December 2016 – The Influence of Green Space on Mental Health & Well-being
December 2016 – Green Paths to Mental Health Theoretical Framework
Nadha Hassen, SAMI (Social Aetiology of Mental Illness) Fellow • @nadhassen
Nadha holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Toronto. She was a CIHR Fellow in Public Health Policy and also completed the Community Development Collaborative Program. For the last five years, Nadha has worked in research at policy and community levels, including roles at Public Health Ontario, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and Africa’s Children-Africa’s Future (AC-AF). Having completed an undergraduate degree in Architectural Design and minoring in Environmental Science, she is interested in exploring the connections between the built environment and population health. She employs a health equity lens to identify populations and areas where there is a greater need for research and action.