Frontiers in Psychology (Oct 2017)

Coping with Stress in Deprived Urban Neighborhoods: What Is the Role of Green Space According to Life Stage?

  • Jenny J. Roe,
  • Peter A. Aspinall,
  • Catharine Ward Thompson

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8


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This study follows previous research showing how green space quantity and contact with nature (via access to gardens/allotments) helps mitigate stress in people living in deprived urban environments (Ward Thompson et al., 2016). However, little is known about how these environments aid stress mitigation nor how stress levels vary in a population experiencing higher than average stress. This study used Latent Class Analysis (LCA) to, first, identify latent health clusters in the same population (n = 406) and, second, to relate health cluster membership to variables of interest, including four hypothetical stress coping scenarios. Results showed a three-cluster model best fit the data, with membership to health clusters differentiated by age, perceived stress, general health, and subjective well-being. The clusters were labeled by the primary health outcome (i.e., perceived stress) and age group (1) Low-stress Youth characterized by ages 16–24; (2) Low-stress Seniors characterized by ages 65+ and (3) High-stress Mid-Age characterized by ages 25–44. Next, LCA identified that health membership was significantly related to four hypothetical stress coping scenarios set in people's current residential context: “staying at home” and three scenarios set outwith the home, “seeking peace and quiet,” “going for a walk” or “seeking company.” Stress coping in Low stress Youth is characterized by “seeking company” and “going for a walk”; stress coping in Low-stress Seniors and High stress Mid-Age is characterized by “staying at home.” Finally, LCA identified significant relationships between health cluster membership and a range of demographic, other individual and environmental variables including access to, use of and perceptions of local green space. Our study found that the opportunities in the immediate neighborhood for stress reduction vary by age. Stress coping in youth is likely supported by being social and keeping physically active outdoors, including local green space visits. By contrast, local green space appears not to support stress regulation in young-middle aged and older adults, who choose to stay at home. We conclude that it is important to understand the complexities of stress management and the opportunities offered by local green space for stress mitigation by age and other demographic variables, such as gender.