People are significantly less likely to smoke – and are more likely to successfully quit if they do smoke – if they live in green neighbourhoods, surprising new research done in Europe has found.
The study is the first to demonstrate that access to neighbourhood green space is linked to lower rates of current smoking, and that this is due to higher rates of smoking cessation rather than lower uptake in these areas.
Studied responses of 8,000 adults
Researchers used data gathered through the Health Survey for England (HSE), conducted annually on behalf of the UK Office for National Statistics.
They examined the responses of more than 8,000 adults to questions about their health, where they lived and various other lifestyle factors.
Of the HSE survey’s respondents, just under 19% described themselves as current smokers while 45% said they had regularly smoked at some point during their lives.
A new public health strategy?
However, even after to taking into account other factors known to influence smoking, people living in areas with a high proportion of greenspace were 20% less likely to be current smokers than those in less green areas.
In addition, among people who had smoked at some point during their lives, those living in greener neighbourhoods were up to 12% more likely to have successfully quit smoking.
The authors suggest that improving access to green space may constitute an overlooked public health strategy for reducing smoking prevalence, especially given that smoking uptake and cessation are affected by stress.
Published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, the research was led by psychologists from the University of Plymouth and the University of Exeter in the UK, and the University of Vienna in Austria.
Reduces other cravings too
Previous studies by the same team have shown that being able to see green spaces from your home is associated with reduced cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy foods. They have also demonstrated that individuals who visit natural spaces weekly, and feel psychologically connected to them, report better physical and mental wellbeing.
“This study is the first to investigate the association between neighbourhood greenspace and smoking behaviours in England,” said Leanne Martin of the University of Plymouth, the lead author on all three studies.
“Its findings support the need to protect and invest in natural resources – in both urban and more rural communities – in order to maximise the public health benefits they may afford.
“If our findings are substantiated by further work, nature-based interventions could be prescribed to assist individuals attempting to give up smoking.”