Green Spaces Could Improve City-Dwellers' Well-Being

People in urban environments could experience a well-being boost by living near green spaces, according to a new study.

Researchers from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter Medical School found that well-being -- in the form of greater life satisfaction and lower mental distress -- improved when city-dwellers lived in greener areas. The findings are published in the journal Psychological Science.

"Although effects at the individual level were small, the potential cumulative benefit at the community level highlights the importance of policies to protect and promote urban green spaces for well-being," researchers wrote in the study.

The study was based on data from 10,000 people in the United Kingdom who were part of the British Household Panel Survey, collected from 1991 to 2008. Meanwhile, green space was analyzed via the Generalised Land Use Database. Researchers found associations between the green space access and well-being after taking into account other potential factors, such as physical health, employment and income.

"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," White said in the statement.

The well-being-boosting effect of green spaces may have to do with its ability to put people in a "zen" mindset, suggests a study published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. That research showed that the brain enters a meditative state when a person is in a green space, and has "implications for promoting urban green space as a mood-enhancing environment for walking or for other forms of physical or reflective activity," researchers wrote in the study.

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