Exeter in global top five for green space and health research

Posted on 2nd July 2020

The University of Exeter has leapt into the top five institutions in the world for research output on the links between green space and public health.

Exeter is currently number four in a list of the most productive institutions globally to study how exposure to green space can improve public health, according to a review of the field in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The review found that Exeter has published 148 research papers between 2010 and 2019. Environmental research is a priority area across the University, and in 2010, the European Centre for Environment and Human Health was established. The past decade has also seen the establishment of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at Exeter.

Both centres make a significant contribution to research in the field of nature and health, and Exeter did not feature in the top ten rankings for the two decades prior to 2010.

Professor Lora Fleming, Director of the European Centre, said:

Ranking in the global top five for research output in the field of green space and public health is a major endorsement of the huge impact our Centre, and colleagues in the wider University, have made across the world. It’s an incredibly important area of research. As our world becomes increasingly populated, we need to understand the value of green spaces so we can feed into policy to improve access and optimise people’s mental health.”

In recent years, the University has made a number of key discoveries, including defining the optimal time to spend in nature to benefit mental health as 120 minutes per week.

Recent papers include a large-scale study which that found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

Another study published this year found that people who spend more time in nature are more likely to take up sustainable activities, such as recycling, buying eco-friendly products or environmental volunteering.

Exeter is also an authority on how antimicrobial resistance spreads through the natural environment, with Exeter academics reporting this work to the United Nations.

The body of research is designed to influence policy that could preserve and optimise natural spaces and encourage people to engage with them in healthy ways in order to benefit. The European Centre for Environment and Human Health has been confirmed by the World Health Organisation as a WHO Collaborating Centre on Natural Environments and Health, recognising the Centre’s significant contribution to science and policy-making from a decade of interdisciplinary research.

Professor Clive Ballard, Dean and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter Medical School, said:

Environmental and human health research is incredibly important for us here at Exeter, and this ranking shows that we’re very much on the global map. I’m very proud of the outstanding calibre of researchers we have in this area. This body of research can help to maximise the benefits that natural environments can have on health, which can benefit people across the world.”

The review is entitled ‘Links between green space and public health: a bibliometric review of global research trends and future prospects from 1901 to 2019’ and is available here doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab7f64.

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