The presence of parks and woodland in economically deprived areas may help people cope better with job losses, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue and anxiety, according to a new study.
The study found that people’s stress levels are directly related to the amount of green space in their surrounding areas — the more green space, the less stressed a person is likely to be.
Researchers measured stress by taking saliva samples from a group of 35- to 55-year-olds and measuring levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. They found that if less than 30 percent of a surrounding area was green space, its population showed unhealthy levels of cortisol.
The study shows that for every one percent increase in green space there was a corresponding — and steeper — decline in stress levels. Where there is more green space, people tend to respond better to disruptive events, either by not getting as stressed in the first place or by coping better, researchers said.
Participants were also asked to rate their stress levels and these results directly related to the percentage of local green space, the researchers note. People with more green space had lower levels of self-reported stress.
Exercise was another factor found to reduce stress, but it may not be related to exercising in park land, researchers added. People reported feeling less stressed if they lived in areas with more green space, regardless of how much exercise they did.
The research was led by the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt’s OPENspace research center, working with the Universities of Glasgow and Westminster. The findings were published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.
Source: University of Edinburgh