In the past couple of years, environmental research has garnished increasing support from a world gradually more conscious of green spaces as repository spaces away from urban noise and congestion as well as spaces that strengthen a community’s storm resilience.
The newest study published in the Environmental Science & Technology Journal by University of Exeter Medical School’s research team looked at the effect of green spaces on individuals’ mental health over time. Does moving to a green space, the study asks, spark a short improvement in mood, or is there a lasting positive effect? The results confirm the latter hypothesis.
Lead researcher Dr. Ian Alcok and his team looked at two groups of people over several years. The first group moved to greener urban areas and the second moved to urban areas with fewer green amenities. Three years later, the first group—people living near green areas—showed sustained levels of low depression and anxiety, and stronger mental health.
While other positive life events, such as a pay raise, promotion, winning the lottery, and even marriage demonstrated several months of improved mental health, followed by a return to the baseline or original state of mind, the mental health patterns of people living near green space deviated from this pattern. Their improved mental state did not return to original levels after several months of acclimation, but remained consistent even years later.
Dr. Ian Alcok elaborated on the benefits of green spaces:
“There is evidence that people within an area with green spaces are less stressed, and when you are less stressed, you make more sensible decisions and you communicate better.”
Living near green spaces may not only improve mental health, but relationships with other people as well.
City planners, landscape architects, and policy makers would do well to consider this relationship of green space to health, as they shape tomorrow’s cities and lives.