This paper investigates the effects of urban green and abandoned areas on residential well-being in major German cities, using panel data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) for the time period between 2000 and 2012 and cross-section data from the European Urban Atlas (EUA) for the year 2006. Using a Geographical Information System (GIS), it calculates the distance to urban green and abandoned areas, measured as the Euclidean distance in 100 metres between households and the border of the nearest urban green and abandoned area, respectively, and the coverage of urban green and abandoned areas, measured as the hectares covered by urban green and abandoned areas in a pre-defined buffer area of 1,000 metres around households, respectively, as the most important determinants of access to them. It shows that, for the 32 major German cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, access to urban green areas, such as parks, is significantly positively associated, whereas access to abandoned areas, such as brown fields, is significantly negatively associated with residential well-being, in particular with life satisfaction, as well as mental and physical health. The effects are strongest for residents who are older, accounting for up to a third of the size of the effect of being unemployed on life satisfaction. Using data from the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II) for the time period between 2009 and 2012, this paper also shows that (older) residents who report living closer to greens have been diagnosed significantly less often with certain medical conditions, including diabetes, sleep disorder, and joint disease.
Keywords: Life satisfaction, mental health, physical health, urban land use, green areas, greens, forests, waters, abandoned areas, SOEP, BASE-II, EUA, GIS, spatial analysis
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