A new study shows a link between being able to see green spaces from your home and reduced cravings for alcohol, cigarettes, and harmful foods.
The study is the first to demonstrate that passive exposure to nearby green space is linked to both lower frequencies and strengths of cravings, according to researchers at the University of Plymouth in the U.K., who led the study.
“It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s well-being,” said Leanne Martin, who led the research as part of her Master’s degree.
“But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programs in the future.”
Researchers add the findings add to evidence that points to the need to protect and invest in green spaces in towns and cities to maximize the public health benefits they may afford.
For the research, participants completed an online survey that explored the relationships between various aspects of exposure to nature exposure, cravings for a range of substances, and experiencing negative emotions or feelings.
Among other things, it measured the amount of green space in an individual’s neighborhood, the presence of green views from their home, their access to a garden or rented growing plot, and their frequency of use of public green spaces.
The results showed that having access to a garden or allotment was associated with both lower craving strength and frequency, while residential views incorporating more than 25 percent green space evoked similar responses.
The study also measured physical activity undertaken within the same time frame that cravings were assessed. It found that reduced cravings occurred irrespective of physical activity level.
“Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and unhealthy eating,” said Dr. Sabine Pahl, an associate professor in psychology. “In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
“Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step. Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future.”
The study was published in the journal Health & Place.
Source: University of Plymouth