The findings come from a study by Professor Frances Kuo, a professor of the landscape and human health.She says that the health benefits come irrespective of other factors and that once we are deprived of green space, our health suffers dramatically.Prof Kuo said that access to nature and green environments yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline and impulse control, and greater mental health overall. Environments with less green space are associated with greater rates of childhood obesity, higher rates of many physician-diagnosed diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, and higher rates of mortality in younger and older adults.
‘We still find these benefits when they are measured objectively, when non-nature lovers are included in our studies, when income and other factors that could explain a nature-health link are taken into account,’ Prof Kuo said.
Healthy environment: People exposed to green spaces have a more positive mental outlook then those who live in urban areas
‘And the strength, consistency and convergence of the findings are remarkable.
‘But just as rats and other laboratory animals housed in unfit environments undergo systematic breakdowns in healthy, positive patterns of social functioning, so do people.
‘In greener settings, we find that people are more generous and more sociable. We find stronger neighbourhood social ties and greater sense of community, more mutual trust and willingness to help others.
‘In less green environments, we find higher rates of aggression, violence, violent crime, and property crime – even after controlling for income and other differences.
‘We also find more evidence of loneliness and more individuals reporting inadequate social support.’
Prof Kuo pointed out that the research had taken data from a range of sources, including police crime reports, blood pressure tests, performance on standardised neurocognitive tests, and physiological measures of immune system functioning.
‘Rarely do the scientific findings on any question align so clearly,’ she said.
Prof Kuo’s report – Parks and Other Green Environments: Essential Components of a Healthy Human – was published in a research series for the National Recreation and Park Association.