Green space Header image

The greenest cities in the world

Matthew Keogh

Oct 19, 2021

Have you ever wondered how much green space you’re afforded in your city?

Well, we’ve identified the greenest cities in the world and discovered which cities boast the largest area of green space per person.

We also spoke with an expert to discuss the effect of green space (or lack thereof) on mental health.

Methodology

Here’s how we calculated the greenest cities in the world. First, we identified the top 20 cities in the world by the largest percentage of city area which is public green space, based on the latest available data. We then used these figures, combined with the city’s area (m2) and population, to determine green space per capita.

‘Green space’ includes parks and gardens.

Green space Callout

Here’s how the green space per person equivalent of the top and bottom cities might look, by means of visual comparison.

Percentage of public green space in the city vs green space per person

Below is the World Cities Culture Forum’s rankings for most green space in total, which represents the percentage of total public green space (parks and gardens) compared to the size of the city. We compared this to our own data (green space per person) to see any disparity between the two.

Green space Table 2

Top three gains

  1. Los Angeles, USA (+6)
  2. Rome, Italy (+6)
  3. Nanjing, China (+5)

In terms of the percentage of green space available, Los Angeles was 13th in the world, but for green space per person, it ranked much higher in 7th. Even though several cities have more green space, a lower population allows more green space per person. Rome also climbed six positions from 12th to 6th.

 

Top three losses

  1. Singapore (-8)
  2. Johannesburg, South Africa (-6)
  3. Hong Kong, Seoul (South Korea), Shenzhen (China), Stockholm (Sweden), Vienna (Austria) (-4)

While Singapore ranked second for percentage of public green space, it dropped eight positions because their high population in relation to city size means there’s less green space (per person). The same applies for Johannesburg in South Africa, which dropped six positions.

Is there a connection between green space and mental health?

We all know that trees improve air quality, but green space can also improve our mental health.

According to author and psychology consultant Dr Jo Lukins, exposure to nature or green space has numerous positive physical and mental health benefits, including lower rates of heart disease, stroke, depression, stress, and general improved wellbeing.

If you’re feeling trapped in your metropolitan setting, Dr Lukins offers the following advice:

“Visit and create green spaces, go to a local park or build a vertical garden. You should also lobby local politicians to create more green spaces in your area.”

In a study ranging from 1985 to 2013, Danish researchers found that childhood exposure to green spaces like parks, forests and rural lands reduces the risk of developing an array of psychiatric disorders during adolescence and adulthood.1 The scientists found that citizens who grew up with the least green space nearby had as much as a 55% increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in later years.

Sources

1. Earth observatory. NASA. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145305/green-space-is-good-for-mental-health. 2013. Accessed August 2021.

Percentage of public green space via World Cities Culture Forum: % of public green space (parks and gardens). Accessed August 2021.

City’s area via Google search: City’s area m2. Accessed August 2021.

Population via World population review. Accessed August 2021.

Brought to you by Compare the Market: Making it easier for Australians to search for great deals on their Health Insurance.