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Great outdoors has a lasting effect on mental wellbeing

Green spaces in urban areas have a long-lasting positive impact on people's mental wellbeing.

Great outdoors has a lasting effect on mental wellbeing

A UK study found that moving around green spaces, such as parks, has a more sustained positive effect on our wellbeing than a pay rise or promotion.

Researcher from the University of Exeter believe their findings will shine the light on the importance of access to good quality parks for public health.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found those living in greener urban areas were less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.

While the authors were quick to point out that a whole number of reasons could make people happier – including a promotion at work, pay rise and getting married – the immediate positive effects of the events on our wellbeing is not sustainable long-term.

“Within six months to a year, they are back to their original baseline levels of well-being. So these things are not sustainable; they do not make us happy in the long-term,” Matthew White, co-author of the study, told reporters.

“We found that within a group of lottery winners who had won more than £500,000 that the positive effect was definitely there but after six months to a year, they were back to the baseline,” White added.

But the researchers were curious to ascertain if the positive effect that green spaces have on people’s wellbeing was also short-lived.

Using data from a 1991 British social survey, which included  a general health questionnaire, they were able to show that, even after three years, those exposed to green spaces still displayed better mental health.

Dr White and his team have submitted applications for further funding to examine marital relationships in various areas, including the divorce rates and satisfaction levels for those in areas with greener spaces.

“There is evidence that people within an area with green spaces are less stressed and when you are less stressed you make more sensible decisions and you communicate better,” he argued.

“I am not going to say it is the magic pill that cures all marriage problems, of course it is not, but it may be the [background factor] that helps tip the balance towards making more sensible decisions and having more adult conversations.”

What do you think? Does spending time in green or outdoor spaces make you feel better? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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One Comment on Great outdoors has a lasting effect on mental wellbeing

  • Jo
    January 29, 2014 8:51 am

    Yes – getting out and spending time in “green space ” is the best for mental (and if you are moving – also physical ) rejuvenation. I live in San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge/National Park and try to spend as much time as possible walking, running, and even doing yoga (one of the studios I go to is in the adjoining Presidio Park with a view of trees). It keeps me sane when I have to work all day inside and endure highway commutes.

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