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Living Close to Green Space Linked to Better Mental Health

A new study by U.K. researchers suggests living close (within 300 meters) of urban green space is associated with greater happiness, sense of worth and life satisfaction. In American terms, this means living within about three football fields from green space such as parks, nature reserves or play areas.

Researchers at the University of Warwick, Newcastle University and the University of Sheffield explain that it has long been understood that individuals feel positive emotions when exposed to natural environments. Moreover, city governments and planning authorities have attempted to embrace this knowledge in new urban development.

However, although cities may promote the amount of green space they offer to residents it is unknown as to how much green space is actually needed. And, how close does it need to be to people’s homes to make a difference?

To answer these questions, Dr. Victoria Houlden, Professor Joao Porto de Albuquerque, Professor Scott Weich and Professor Stephen Jarvis set out to apply new geospatial research techniques to create an accurate measure of the relationship between green space and 3 different aspects of mental well-being.

Most previous studies have only been able to take into account the overall amount of green space within a specific area, rather than the exact amount of green space that surrounds an individual’s home, and have found mixed results.

By combining survey responses from 25,518 participants in the U.K. government’s Annual Population Survey (APS) with data on the shape, size and location of London’s 20,000 public green spaces, researchers were able to more accurately model greenspace distribution.

This data allowed investigators to plot where each of the 25,518 survey participants lived, enabling researchers to explore how proximity to green space influence mental wellbeing (as revealed in survey answers).

The study, appears in the journal Applied Geography. Results included:

  • overall, there is a very strong relationship between the amount of green space around a person’s home and their feelings of life satisfaction, happiness and self-worth
  • green space within 300m of home had the greatest influence on mental wellbeing
  • this proximity to green space was associated with an increase of 8 percentage points in a life satisfaction, 7 percent in worth and 5 percent n happiness.

Said Houlden,”We believe this it is the first study to demonstrate how urban green spaces may improve a broader definition of mental wellbeing.

“A lot of research focuses on poor mental health, or single aspects of wellbeing like life satisfaction. What makes our work different is the way we consider multi-dimensional mental wellbeing, in terms of happiness, life satisfaction and worth.”

“While government guidelines recommend minimum amounts of green space in residential developments, our study was able to establish more specifically where greenspace may be most valuable.”

Weich, professor of mental health at the University of Sheffield, said, “Contrary to popular opinion, up until now the evidence for the link between green space and mental well-being has been pretty circumstantial. By combining advanced statistical and mapping methods, we’ve shown that the effect is real and substantial. Basically we’ve proven what everyone has always assumed was true.”

Professor Stephen A. Jarvis, at the University of Warwick, noted,  “The Centre for Doctoral Training in Urban Science, hosted at the University of Warwick, has been tackling difficult urban questions for several years. Much of this research has been to provide evidence, resulting from the application of data-analytic methods, to support decision making by local councils and government agencies.

“This is the first study to provide concrete evidence of how urban green spaces may improve mental well-being in the broadest sense, and should therefore lead to healthier, happier and more productive urban landscapes in the future.”

Source: University of Warwick

Living Close to Green Space Linked to Better Mental Health

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2019). Living Close to Green Space Linked to Better Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2019/08/21/living-close-to-green-space-linked-to-better-mental-health/149636.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Aug 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 21 Aug 2019
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