Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature

We aim to find out more about how Sheffield’s natural environment can improve the health & wellbeing of city residents

Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) is a three year research project awarded £1.3m by the Natural Environment Research Council’s Valuing Nature Programme. It aims to find out more about how Sheffield’s natural environment can improve the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents, and especially those with disproportionately high levels of poor health.

The project, led by Dr Anna Jorgensen at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape, brings academics from the universities of Sheffield, Derby, and Heriot-Watt together with the Wildlife Trusts, Recovery Enterprises and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare. We will use a range of methods, including a specially designed smartphone app, to investigate people’s relationships with Sheffield’s parks and green spaces.

Project Aims

This project will study the interaction within Sheffield between people, their local natural environment and their health and wellbeing. It aims to:

  • Understand how the health and wellbeing of the people within different neighbourhoods relates to the quantity, quality and distribution of natural greenspaces where they live;
  • Investigate the role that culture, upbringing, social values and norms;
  • Explore how people from different ethnic and socio-economic groups interact with greenspaces and how this affects their connectedness to nature, and mental health and wellbeing;
  • Discover how the biodiversity value of the places that people visit affects their mental health and wellbeing;
  • Develop a way to assess the economic implications of these insights;
  • Develop effective ways to feed this knowledge into the policy, delivery and investment decisions of politicians, planners, designers, developers, land managers, public health commissioners and other professionals, business leaders and relevant voluntary and community organisations.

IWUN will:

  • Evaluate the ways in which the quality and quantity of urban green space impacts on the health and wellbeing of Sheffield residents
  • Explore the cultures and values that influence how people of different ages and backgrounds interact with the natural environment
  • Find out more about which aspects of the natural environment are beneficial for health and wellbeing
  • Evaluate whether a smartphone app connecting people with nature can improve health and wellbeing
  • Develop a method to measure the cost-effectiveness of natural environments to help determine the ways in which they could play a significant part in the UK’s future healthcare arrangements
  • Work out how urban green space can be used to deliver health and social care