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Cities should encourage the development of green spaces. A new study finds that there are significant and sustained improvements in mental health as a result of having access to green spaces. The World Health Organization has shown that depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and natural environments could be one way of addressing that challenge.
By analyzing data over a five year period, research has found that moving to a greener area not only improves people’s mental health, but that the effect continues long after the they have moved away from it. This new study adds to the growing evidence that increasing green spaces in urban areas could deliver substantial benefits to public health beyond the physical experience enjoyed there.
This is one of the first studies to consider the effects of green space over time. The researchers used data from the British Household Panel Survey which gathers information from questionnaires filled in by households across Great Britain. By looking at the data from over 1000 participants, the team focused on two groups of people: those who moved to greener areas and those who moved away from green areas. They found that movers to green areas experienced an immediate improvement in mental health which lasted for three years after they moved. The people who moved away experienced a drop in mental health, but it occurred before the move perhaps in anticipation of it, and their mood returned to normal after their move was complete.
“We’ve shown that individuals who move to greener areas have significant and long-lasting improvements in mental health. These findings are important for urban planners thanking about introducing new green spaces to our towns and cities, suggesting they could provide long term and sustained benefits for local communities,” explained lead researcher Dr. Ian Alcock.
“We needed to answer important questions about how the effects of green space vary over time. Do people experience a novelty effect, enjoying the new green area after the move, but with the novelty then wearing off? Or do they take time to realize the benefits of their new surroundings as they gradually get to know local parks? What we’ve found suggests that the mental health benefits of green space are not only immediate, but sustainable over long periods of time,” concluded co-author of the paper, Dr. Mathew White.
Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Environmental Science & Technology
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