GREEN SPACES AND WELLNESS

More and more people are leaving behind rural landscapes for a life in the big city; but with lockdown looming the inner city flat void of greenery is loosing its appeal. Alongside this, there is a growing need for health systems to respond to better protect and promote mental health, especially during the difficult times we have faced this year so far. With an increasing amount of research into the effects that green spaces have on our health and happiness, could the two be linked?


What difference can green spaces make?

As a country gal who is used to seeing more sheep than cars on the roads, a few days in a concrete jungle is enough for me to start going a little crazy. In most cities there is a lot of access to green space but not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden or be a short walk away from a park or even street trees. A recent study found that 2.6 million people didn't live within a 10-minute walk of a green space.

In England, 1 in 6 people in any week report feeling a common mental problem, such as depression or anxiety and 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year. Worldwide, mental health conditions cost health systems £1.6 trillion every year but these aren't just numbers, they are people. Further research needs to be done to not only better support those in need but also to prevent it from happening in the first place. There is an increasing amount of research into the positive effects that green spaces can have on mental health, so what have we found out...

Kew Gardens - London

There is a large body of evidence that green space can reduce mental distress, anxiety, depression and improve general wellbeing. We can see this through the positive relationship between the levels of neighbourhood green space and individual wellbeing. For example, individuals who move house from an area with less green space to more green space have been found to have significantly better mental health in the three years after moving, showing a sustained improvement. Many of the things that make us happy, for example a job promotions or getting married only provide short term boosts in happiness. One of the biggest benefits we are seeing with green spaces is that the positive effects they are having are long term. Basically scientists are saying don't get married just buy a house next to a park!

Greener environments have shown to reduce levels of depression, anxiety and fatigue, especially in socioeconomically disadvantages groups; mental wellbeing was better in deprived groups with good access to green space compared to those with less access. A study by the University of Aarhus in Denmark found that exposure to green spaces such as parks, forests and rural land in childhood can reduce the risk for developing psychiatric disorders during adolescence and adulthood. Researches correlated the mental health outcomes of almost one million Danes with their residential green space using satellite archives and the Danish Civil Registration System. It was found that those who grow up with the least green space had up to 55% increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse in later years.

The benefits aren't all mental, a systematic review found that, with some variation in demographic factors, greener urban neighbourhoods were associated with maintaining healthier weight and may improve obesity-related health outcomes. Studies have even found that pregnant women living in greener areas where more likely to have children with a healthier birth weight.


Of course, these studies aren't perfect and many of them rely on correlations for their outcomes which can be affected by several different factors. However, we can see that green spaces are having a positive impact on us, from reduced stress and depression to improved life satisfaction and general wellbeing. If so, this could have implications for not only healthy city design and making green space-focused urban planning but also as an early intervention tool for reducing mental health problems. Of course, the addition of green spaces into our cities also benefits the planet, helping to combat issues like Urban Heat Islands. This is where cities can often become several degrees hotter than their rural surroundings, creating problems for air and water quality. It is caused by every day human activity as well as the closely compacted buildings that are designed and insulated to hold in heat. Basically, it's a win win!



500 Miles in September

I think at some point, we have all been affected by mental health in some way shape or form whether it's ourselves or a loved one. I had wanted to write a post about the effects that green spaces could have on mental health for a while after looking into it at University. When my sister decided to start her 500 miles in September challenge, I figured it was the best time to do it.


My sister, Becky and her friend Jenny are attempting to walk a combined 500 miles in September in order to raise money for the Russ Devereux Headlight Project. It's an amazing charity, founded in memory of my cousin Russ, who lost his life to suicide in 2018. They work to build resilience in children to help them cope with stress and offer support to families who have lost loved ones to suicide. They are aiming to raise £500, a £1 for every mile walked! It's not an easy challenge and I've heard Becky complaining (a lot) so any donations would be appreciated to make it all worth while. I've put the Just Giving link below as well as a link to the Headlight Projects website so you can find out more about the charity!


https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/500-miles-in-september?fbclid=IwAR0woW0b1yiAIAGmMOYWNjR0AfQlTsE8i3TAh7LJX0QdkhnitHjPgl5sLRs

https://www.headlightproject.org/

Overview

By 2050, it is predicted that 68% of the worlds population will live in cities. Urbanisation needs to increase sustainably not only for our planet but also for our own wellbeing. Green spaces are becoming a focus of development, for example Goal 11 of the UNs sustainable development goals, Sustainability Cities and Communities, states that by 2030 they aim to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces. Moving forward, we have to make sure we stick to these targets. The last 6 months have been hard on us all but if you do feel like you need some extra help to get back to being you, check out some of these resources online;

- The Samaritans

- Mind

- Rethink Mental Illness

- Anxiety UK


As always, thanks for reading!


Antonia :)



Links:

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145305/green-space-is-good-for-mental-health#:~:text=The%20scientists%20found%20that%20citizens,the%20National%20Academy%20of%20Sciences%20.

https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2016/11/09/green-space-mental-wellbeing-and-sustainable-communities/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48398033

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/urban-heat-island/

https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html

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