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Can Green Spaces Make You Happier?

Posted by Team ADI on

A few weeks ago, USA Today posted an article with a list of the top green spaces in North America.  Some notable green spaces among the list are San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

But what are green spaces? Well, according to Google:


Why should we care about green spaces? There’s been plenty of research that shows humans thrive when exposed to nature--even when it’s just a patch of greenery in a concrete jungle. A team from the UK’s University of Exeter found that people who had more trees in their neighborhood took fewer antidepressant medications.

A study from the USDA Forest Service found that people who live around trees are physically healthier. According to their report, about 850 lives of people who live surrounded by trees are saved each year, the number of acute respiratory symptoms is lower by about 670,000 incidents each year, and the health care savings attributed to pollution removal by trees is about $7 billion a year.

Even looking at nature can have positive benefits. Research at the University of Melbourne discovered that gazing at nature can increases productivity.  Another study at the University of Rochester found that, after looking at nature scenes, people are kinder and more charitable.

The most interesting research comes from a 2014 study published in Environmental Science & Technology.  In another study from the University of Exeter, researchers looked at five years’ worth of mental health data for 1,064 participants who moved their residence during the study period.  They found that those who moved to urban areas with more green space were happier and had lower levels of anxiety and depression.  

To gauge mental health, the researchers analyzed answers in response to questions like “How hard has it been for you to concentrate in the past few weeks compared to usual?” or "How much stress have you felt in the past few weeks compared to usual?”  Statistical regressions were ran to eliminate the influence of other factors like income, employment, and education.

People who moved from greener to less green areas on the other hand, showed the opposite effect. Interestingly, after moving, their overall mental health returned to normal levels.  The research also yields important evidence for urban planners, suggesting that they can provide long term benefits for the community.

All of this ample research reinforces the idea that frequent exposure to nature really does improve human health. We might just plant a tree.

Image credit: Vignesh Ananth, flickr

Cover photo image credit: Doug Jones, flickr

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