The health and happiness benefits of being in nature- greenspace the science

We instinctively know that being surrounded by nature feels good and relaxes most people, but what’s the science behind this?

In this article, I discuss some of the key research that suggests how and why being around trees and fields is good for us.

Is there a positive link between living nearer to green open spaces?

There’s a wealth of research on the impact of being in nature so living with easy access to green spaces is beneficial to our health and wellbeing.

A 2016 study of 121,000 woman found that women living in greenest areas were 13 percent less likely to die of cancer and 34 % less likely to die from a respiratory illness than women living in the greyest/most non green areas. (Bratman et al., 2019; de Vries et al., 2016)

Others note how living near greenspace increases a range of measures of emotional and psychological health including, happiness, mood, social interactions, memory attention span, children’s school performance- along with stress reduction, depression and ADHD. (Kardan et al., 2015)

How near to green space do you need to be for it to have an effect?

The 2016 study above noted that living in the greenest areas was related to the biggest positive effects. Those with the most greenspace within 250 m of their homes experienced the biggest effect, although if greenspace was within 1250 m the results were quite similar.

Does living near tress make a difference?

A study in 2015 concluded that the presence of 10 or more trees on a street block had self-reported health benefits similar to a $10,000 salary raise or moving to a neighbourhood with a $10,000 higher median income or being seven years younger. Additionally, it found that living on a tree-lined block resulted in fewer reports of high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or diabetes. (Kardan et al., 2015)

References:

Bratman, G. N., Anderson, C. B., Berman, M. G., Cochran, B., de Vries, S., Flanders, J., Folke, C., Frumkin, H., Gross, J. J., Hartig, T., Kahn, P. H., Kuo, M., Lawler, J. J., Levin, P. S., Lindahl, T., Meyer-Lindenberg, A., Mitchell, R., Ouyang, Z., Roe, J., … Daily, G. C. (2019). Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Science Advances, 5(7), eaax0903. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aax0903

de Vries, S., ten Have, M., van Dorsselaer, S., van Wezep, M., Hermans, T., & de Graaf, R. (2016). Local availability of green and blue space and prevalence of common mental disorders in the Netherlands. BJPsych Open, 2(6), 366–372. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjpo.bp.115.002469

James, P., Hart, J. E., Banay, R. F., & Laden, F. (2016). Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(9), 1344–1352. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510363

Kardan, O., Gozdyra, P., Misic, B., Moola, F., Palmer, L. J., Paus, T., & Berman, M. G. (2015). Neighborhood greenspace and health in a large urban center. Scientific Reports, 5(1), 11610. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep11610

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