WELLNESS Green spaces may boost well-being for city dwellers
People living in urban areas with more green spaces enjoy greater well-being than those residing in cities lacking gardens and parks, according to new research. Examining data from a national longitudinal survey of households in the United Kingdom, Mathew White and colleagues at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School found that individuals reported less mental distress and higher life satisfaction when they were living in greener areas. White and colleagues were surprised by the scale of the effects of living in a greener area in comparison to ‘big hitting’ life events, such as marriage and employment: “Living in an urban area with relatively high levels of green space compared to one with relatively low levels of green space was associated with a positive impact on well-being equivalent to roughly a third of the impact of being married vs. unmarried and a tenth of the impact of being employed vs. unemployed.”
The results show that, even stacked up against other factors that contribute to life satisfaction, living in a greener area had a significant effect.
“These kinds of comparisons are important for policymakers when trying to decide how to invest scarce public resources, e.g. for park development or upkeep, and figuring out what ‘bang’ they’ll get for their buck,” says White.
The new research does not prove that moving to a greener area will necessarily cause increased happiness, but it does fit with findings from experimental studies showing that short bouts of time in a green space can improve people’s mood and cognitive functioning.
The study has been published in the journal Psychological Science .