The results of the study appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, and suggest that those living in proximity to urban green spaces show less signs of anxiety or depression. The study also suggests that the positive impact of living near an urban green area is more long lasting than other factors which cause happiness, such as a promotion or pay rise.
Dr Matthew White, co-author of the journal stated that measuring the lasting effects of the positive impact of urban green spaces was crucial to the study. Factors such as success at work or falling in love all create higher levels of happiness in our lives, but after six months to one year, it returns to its original level.
White gave the example: “We found that within a group of lottery winners who had won more than £500,000 that the positive effects were definitely there, but after six months to a year, they were back to the baseline.”
Using the General Health Questionnaire, a section of the Understanding Society Survey used to record data on health and wellbeing, and diagnose depression and anxiety disorders, Dr White was able to monitor the effects of urban green spaces upon individuals in the long term.
The data collected showed that, after three years, the mental health in areas in closer proximity to urban green spaces had remained better.
While an urban park or similar green space may not initially appear to be a huge factor in generating happiness, it is thought that being in closer proximity to one, or being able to spend time relaxing in a more natural environment helps to combat stress. Lower levels of stress improve people’s ability to make decisions and communicate better, which can contribute to a happier home and work life. It may not be an instant cure for depression or anxiety disorder, but can help to get the basics right to create an environment where happier living can take place.
Image sourced: David from Amsterdam, Netherlandstagshealth and wellbeingmental healthurban green spaces