Living in Green Spaces Offers Lasting Mental Benefits

First Posted: Jan 08, 2014 03:12 AM EST

Green spaces in urban areas have a significant and lasting improvement on mental health, according to a latest study

The research led by a team from the University of Exeter Medical School explains that people who move to greener spaces such as parks and gardens in cities, experience a significant improvement in mental health. But what is remarkable is that the positive effect continues long after the person moves away.

This is not the first study that focuses on the effects of greenery on our wellbeing. A study published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that there was an improvement in people's life satisfaction when they shifted to greener urban areas. Researchers at Glasgow University  disclosed how living near parks and gardens can potentially increase your lifespan.

In the current study that involved data from the British Household Panel Survey, about a 1000 subjects were followed for over a period of five years. The study focused on two sets of people: those who moved to greener urban areas and those who moved to lesser green urban areas. The data was gathered via questionnaires.

 The researchers noticed that people who were residing near parks and gardens experienced an immediate enhancement in mental health that lasted for at least 3 years after they moved. Also they noticed a significant decline in mental health in those who were surrounded by stone and steel. A significant finding here is that the drop in mental health occurred before they relocated.

"We've shown that individuals who move to greener areas have significant and long-lasting improvements in mental health. These findings are important for urban planners thinking about introducing new green spaces to our towns and cities, suggesting they could provide long term and sustained benefits for local communities," explains lead researcher, Dr Ian Alcock.

This study endorses previous research that says that healthy environment affects mental well being. Dr Mathew White, co-author of the study says: "We needed to answer important questions about how the effects of green space vary over time. Do people experience a novelty effect, enjoying the new green area after the move, but with the novelty then wearing off? Or do they take time to realise the benefits of their new surroundings as they gradually get to know local parks? What we've found suggests that the mental health benefits of green space are not only immediate, but sustainable over long periods of time."

The findings were documented in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.  

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