Green spaces significant for health

Friday, August 21, 2015
A new study finds that the mental benefits of greenery are immediate and long-lasting.

There’s plenty of evidence for the idea that human beings thrive when they have frequent exposure to nature - even when it’s just a patch of greenery in the midst of a cities’ concrete jungle. Studies have found that after looking at nature scenes, people are kinder and more charitable. They’ve suggested that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have an easier time concentrating when they spend time outdoors. A 2008 study even found that, for office workers, a mere glimpse of green through a window or a live plant on their desk were, on the whole, associated with lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction.

Living in a green area can lengthen our life, according to a research published which shows that the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor shrinks among those who live in an environment with parks and trees.

Richard Mitchell, from Glasgow University, and his colleagues, found that the gap between the numbers of deaths of people on high incomes and the numbers of deaths of those on low incomes in green areas was half that compared with figures relating to built-up areas.

Green spaces, classified by the researchers as “open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation”, encouraged people to walk and be more active. But exercise in these settings could have greater psychological and physiological benefits than exercise elsewhere, the researchers said.

The benefits potentially go beyond exercise. Studies have shown that being around green spaces can reduce blood pressure and stress levels, and possibly help people heal faster after surgery.

A number of researchers have looked at the effects of greenery on our well-being, the paper published in the Lancet noted. But few studies had looked at whether living in green areas reduced health inequalities, the Glasgow team said.

Using information from a land-use database of 2001, the researchers split the per-retirement population of England into four groups according to income level and deprivation, and five groups according to access to green space. They then looked at mortality data for 2001-2005.

They found that the inequality in mortality from all causes relating to income deprivation was less in those populations in the greenest areas compared with the figures for people living in more built-up places. They found an even stronger relationship when it came to deaths from circulatory disease such as heart conditions and stroke. There was no difference, however, in deaths from lung cancer.

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”

Doug Larson