Residential green space and birth outcomes in a coastal setting

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Residential green space may improve birth outcomes, with prior studies reporting higher birthweight among infants of women living in greener areas. However, results from studies evaluating associations between green space and preterm birth have been mixed. Further, the potential influence of residential proximity to water, or ‘blue space’, on health has not previously been evaluated.


To evaluate associations between green and blue space and birth outcomes in a coastal area of the northeastern United States.


Using residential surrounding greenness (measured by Normalized Difference Vegetation Index [NDVI]) and proximity to recreational facilities, coastline, and freshwater as measures of green and blue space, we examined associations with preterm birth (PTB), term birthweight, and term small for gestational age (SGA) among 61,640 births in Rhode Island. We evaluated incremental adjustment for socioeconomic and environmental metrics.


In models adjusted for individual – and neighborhood-level markers of socioeconomic status (SES), an interquartile range (IQR) increase in NDVI was associated with a 12% higher (95% CI: 4, 20%) odds of PTB and, conversely, living within 500 m of a recreational facility was associated with a 7% lower (95% CI: 1, 13%) odds of PTB. These associations were eliminated after further adjustment for town of residence. NDVI was associated with higher birthweight (7.4 g, 95% CI: 0.4–14.4 g) and lower odds of SGA (OR = 0.92, 95% CI: 0.87–0.98) when adjusted for individual-level markers of SES, but not when further adjusted for neighborhood SES or town. Living within 500 m of a freshwater body was associated with a higher birthweight of 10.1 g (95% CI: 2.0, 18.2) in fully adjusted models.


Findings from this study do not support the hypothesis that residential green space is associated with reduced risk of preterm birth or higher birthweight after adjustment for individual and contextual socioeconomic factors, but variation in results with incremental adjustment raises questions about the optimal degree of control for confounding by markers of SES. We found that living near a freshwater body was associated with higher birthweight. This result is novel and bears further investigation in other settings and populations.

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