Press Release: University
New Zealanders who live close to parks or green spaces are less
likely to be overweight or suffer from obesity, a University of
Canterbury research project has found.
The researchers say there is potential benefit in featuring
green spaces in health promotions in both urban and deprived areas
of New Zealand.
The prevalence of adult obesity in New Zealand is high (28
percent in 2011/12) and rising, leading to escalating health care
costs, especially for associated conditions such as Type II
diabetes. About 11 percent of New Zealand children up to the age of
14 are considered obese. Another 20 percent are overweight and at
risk of obesity.
The University of Canterbury geography research, headed by
Professor Simon Kingham, explored private and public green spaces
and people undertaking physical activity. It analysed the
activities of 12,500 New Zealanders, including 2500 Aucklanders,
and found green spaces influenced their physical and mental
"Park creation and planting in existing public spaces may
serve as low-cost disease prevention options. Our results also
indicate the potential benefit of targeted health promotion in both
urban and deprived areas in New Zealand.
"We found associations between neighbourhood environmental
characteristics, obesity and related behaviours among adult New
Zealanders. There is a growing recognition of the potential role of
environmental factors in reducing obesity and promoting physical
activity and healthy diets.
"We found that increased neighbourhood deprivation and
decreased access to neighbourhood green spaces were both
significantly associated with increased odds of being overweight
and / or obese. Increased access to green space was associated with
high levels of walking, while decreased access to green space was
associated with low levels of walking.
"There was also a significant trend for low levels of
walking to be positively associated with neighbourhood deprivation.
Results for adequate fruit and vegetable consumption show rural
people meeting recommended levels more than those in cities.
"Geographic access to supermarkets was better in deprived
neighbourhoods than affluent neighbourhoods, but access was not
associated with individuals' vegetable intake.
"This is probably the first study in New Zealand to evaluate the
potential role of environmental characteristics in influencing
obesity of becoming overweight, adding to evidence from the United
States, Australia, Canada and Europe.
"The fear of neighbourhood crime has also exhibited a
negative impact on mental and physical wellbeing in New Zealand and
has been shown to reduce residents' walking within the local
neighbourhood in Australia and the United Kingdom."
Professor Kingham heads the University of Canterbury's
spatial GeoHealth Laboratory, which researches in areas such as
health geography, spatial epidemiology and geographic information
The laboratory has examined issues such as household
crowding and infectious disease; monitoring people's health in
cities; mental health outcomes following the 2010 and 2011
earthquakes; and travel, transport and travel and health