UK researchers have found that living near green, open spaces affects our mental health in a positive way. Unlike a promotion or pay rise which only offers a temporary mood-boost, the study shows that being near nature has a sustained positive effect.
The findings have been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and indicate that access to quality urban parks is beneficial to our health.
One of the authors, Matthew White from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University for Exeter, explained that the study was built on results showing that those living in ‘greener’ urban areas displayed fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Dr White explained to BBC News that there could have been many reasons for the participants to be happy, including marriage, promotions and pay rises.
“But the trouble with all those things is that within six months to a year, they are back to their original baseline levels of well-being. So these things are not sustainable; they do not make us happy in the long-term.”
Dr White said that his team were keen to see the effects of living in greener areas and whether or not these effects lasted. The team used data from the British Household Panel Survey (now called the Understanding Society survey), which started in 1991.
The data revealed that after three years those who lived in greener areas had higher levels of well-being. Dr White and his team have since put in an application for funding to carry out more research to see how other factors like divorce rates would affect results.
There is a growing body of evidence that establishes a link between green spaces and well-being, and a growing sense of interest among public policy officials. Back in October we reported that leading mental health charity Mind had been supporting the use of ecotherapy, which has since received positive responses.