Living Near Green Spaces Helps Keep Depression at Bay, Study

First Posted: Apr 14, 2014 07:43 AM EDT

Dwellers living close to green spaces are more likely to be happier, a recent study suggests.

Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health found that dwellers surrounded by greener neighborhood were less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. The finding is based on a survey conducted on 2,500 Wisconsin residents from 229 neighborhoods.

To prove the hypothesis, the researchers combined the mental-health data of subjects from the Survey of Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) and Landsat 5 satellite data from July 2009 that looked at the vegetation present in each of the SHOW census regions.

The participants answered a questionnaire that required them to rate their symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. The researchers adjusted certain factors including age, race, income level, education, marital status and employment, amongst others.

The researchers found that those who dwelled in neighborhoods that had less than 10 percent of tree canopy were more vulnerable to depression, stress and anxiety.

"Across neighborhoods of Wisconsin, from the North Woods to the cities, the results are striking," says Dr. Kristen Malecki, assistant professor of population health sciences at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. "Higher levels of green space were associated with lower symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress."

Malecki highlights that this study further supports the "attention restoration theory" that states spending time in the lap of nature helps in restoring the ability to concentration and also lowers mental fatigue. 

"The greening of neighborhoods could be a simple solution to reducing stress," says Malecki. "If you want to feel better, go outside."

Earlier researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School found that green spaces in urban areas leads to long lasing mental health.   

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