Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature

A research project about how Sheffield’s natural environment can improve the health and wellbeing of city residents

Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature (IWUN) was a three-year research project awarded £1.3 million by the Natural Environment Research Council’s Valuing Nature Programme. Its aim was to find out more about how Sheffield’s natural environment can improve the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents, especially those with disproportionately high levels of poor health.

The project, led by Dr Anna Jorgensen at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape, brought academics from the universities of Sheffield, Derby, and Heriot-Watt together with the Wildlife Trusts, Recovery Enterprises and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare.

We used a range of methods, including a specially designed smartphone app, to investigate people’s relationships with Sheffield’s parks and green spaces.

Project aims

We studied the interaction within Sheffield between people, their local natural environment and their health and wellbeing. Our aims were to:

  • Understand how the health and wellbeing of the people within different neighbourhoods relates to the quantity, quality and distribution of natural greenspaces where they live.

  • Investigate the role that culture, upbringing, social values and norms.

  • Explore how people from different ethnic and socio-economic groups interact with greenspaces and how this affects their connectedness to nature, and mental health and wellbeing.

  • Discover how the biodiversity value of the places that people visit affects their mental health and wellbeing.

  • Develop a way to assess the economic implications of these insights.

  • Develop effective ways to feed this knowledge into the policy, delivery and investment decisions of politicians, planners, designers, developers, land managers, public health commissioners and other professionals, business leaders and relevant voluntary and community organisations.

How did IWUN do this? We:

  • Evaluated the ways in which the quality and quantity of urban green space impacts on the health and wellbeing of Sheffield residents.

  • Explored the cultures and values that influence how people of different ages and backgrounds interact with the natural environment.

  • Found out more about which aspects of the natural environment are beneficial for health and wellbeing.

  • Evaluated whether a smartphone app connecting people with nature can improve health and wellbeing.

  • Developed a method to measure the cost-effectiveness of natural environments to help determine the ways in which they could play a significant part in the UK’s future healthcare arrangements.

  • Worked out how urban green space can be used to deliver health and social care.


The University of Sheffield logo
Centre for Sustainable Healthcare logo
University of Derby logo
Recovery Enterprises logo
Heriot Watt University logo
NERC logo
The Wildlife Trusts logo
Valuing Nature logo