Does public space have to be green to improve well-being? An analysis of public space across Greater London and its association to subjective well-being

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 15, 2022


Urban public space has been associated with increased physical activity, social interaction, neighbourhood cohesion and subjective well-being. Yet, the vast majority of literature focuses on green and blue space, excluding the potential therapeutic value of “hard-surfaced” public space, such as a civic or market square. Therefore, for the first time in the public space literature, we quantify hard-surfaced public space's variation across a major city (Greater London). We merge this with data on residents' well-being (taken from the Understanding Society Survey Wave 6, n = 3684). Using a multivariate linear model, we initially found no direct association between hard space and well-being, whilst we found a significant positive correlation for green space. Interaction effects of 1) the perception of neighbourhood safety and 2) housing tenure, were then considered. Hard space was significantly positively correlated to well-being in high-safety neighbourhoods, yet this relationship was inversed in low-safety areas. This interaction effect was especially large and significant for social housing residents, who seem to reap the greatest benefits from, but are also most susceptible to the dangers of, hard-surfaced space. It is suggested that hard space, through its ability to foster pro-social behaviour, may be related to well-being through separate causal mechanisms than green space.

Published in



Volume: 125:103569






Open Access

Under a Creative Commons license



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