Review: urban forestry in urban health and health inequalities

Can urban forests improve health for all?

SummaryLittlewood urban forest in Knowsley, MerseysideLittlewood urban forest near Stockbridge Village, MerseysidePeabody Hill Wood in Lambeth, London

This literature review examined the role of trees, woods and forests in urban areas, especially to identify links between urban forestry, health and health inequalities in urban populations. The work identified gaps in research and suggested opportunities for the Forestry Commission to focus on health and well-being in urban areas.

Key findings

  • Physical health: urban forests improve long- and short-term physical benefits associated with obesity, life expectancy, heart rate and blood pressure
  • Mental health: cognitive benefits include restoration, mood and self esteem
  • Community cohesion: urban forests and greenspace encourage social contact
  • Future focus: urban forestry initiatives should focus on the restorative and social benefits of woodland and target children and poor communities
  • Planning: people want to see trees from home and work, but urban forests must promote a sense of safety and inclusion (good maintenance, staff presence, led activities) so that people will use them as a place to socialise


Funders and partners

Commissioned and funded by the Forestry Commission. Support in kind from the University of Melbourne, Australia.


Liz O’Brien