Did you know that having green spaces in your neighborhood can have a long-term positive effect on your mental well-being? A group of researchers in the UK studying the effects of green spaces in urban areas have found that unlike the temporary boost that pay rises and promotions bring about, moving to a greener neighborhood can bring about a more sustained positive effect. The findings of the study were recently published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal.
“We found that people living in greener urban areas displayed fewer signs of anxiety or depression,” said Mather White, co-author of the research paper and member of the European Center for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, UK.
Furthermore, while the authors said that the study clearly showed a correlation between quality urban parks and public health, they added that they did not know the time trajectory of the benefits.
The researcher admits that there could have been a number of other reasons for the positive effect, including all the things that people do to make themselves happier such as striving for promotion at work, pay rises, and even getting married. However, he added that the drawback with all these reasons is that the individuals usually lapse back to their earlier state within six months to a year.
“Such reasons rarely make us happy in the long-term since they are not sustainable. We found that within a group of lottery winners who had won more than £500,000, the positive effect was definitely there, but after six months to a year they were back to the baseline,” said White.
On the other hand, when White and his team made use of data from the Understanding Society Survey that included a General Health Questionnaire that is used by doctors and clinicians to diagnose anxiety disorders and depression among people, they found people living in greener neighbourhoods displayed prolonged mental well being.
The survey, which commenced in 1991 and is being compiled by the University of Essex, is a massive representative sample of the population in the UK, currently covering 40,000 households a year.
White said that the survey showed that people living in greener urban areas experienced healthier mental well-being even three years after they moved to those greener areas.
Encouraged by the positive results of the research, White and his team have submitted an application for further funding in order to examine how marital relationships varied in different areas, and also how divorce rates and satisfaction levels altered due to greener surroundings.
“There is evidence that people living within an area with more green spaces are less stressed, and when you are less stressed you make more sensible decisions and communicate better,” White observed.
He added that living in greener areas is certainly not a magic pill that would cure all marital problems, but such a change might just be the background factor that could encourage couples to have more adult conversations and make more sensible decisions.
While it was always known that the outdoors, exposure to plants, wildlife and natural environs is beneficial and mentally relaxing, what the research importantly points out is that the benefits of such exposure is long-term as compared to the short-term happiness gained from promotions, pay rise etc. Building a greener space around you, can definitely enhance the quality of life you are leading.
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