Proximity to Green Spaces Boosts Health
New research confirms the importance for health of living near green spaces. Dr. Jolanda Maas of the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and colleagues explain that due to increasing urbanization, people face the prospect of living in environments with few green spaces.
Several studies have shown that a more natural living environment positively influences people’s self-perceived health and leads to lower health risks. “There is increasing evidence for a positive relation between green space in people’s living environment and self-reported indicators of physical and mental health,” the researchers report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Their new study looks at health as assessed by doctors. They analyzed medical records from 345,143 people, looking at different socioeconomic groups separately. These were based on education, work status and health care insurance type.
Living within a one-kilometre radius of a green space was significantly linked with reduced risk of 15 out of 24 disease clusters, that is, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, mental illness, respiratory disease, neurological disease, digestive disease, and miscellaneous complaints.
“The relation was strongest for anxiety disorder and depression,” say the researchers. It was also stronger for children and people in lower socioeconomic groups, although the researchers did not have information on individual income.
“The relation was strongest in slightly urban areas and not apparent in very strongly urban areas,” they add. “This study stresses the importance of green space close to home for children and lower socioeconomic groups.”
However, the causes are still unclear. Some links are more plausible than others, they state, so “further research will have to shed more light on the mechanisms behind the relation between green space and health, and to what extent green space indeed plays a causal role in the observed relationships.”
Overall, the team writes, “The strong relation we found, particularly for anxiety disorder and depression, suggests that mental health in particular might be affected by the amount of local green space.”