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City Dwellers Near Parks, Green Spaces Are Happier, Have Lower Mental Distress: Study Finds

Apr 22, 2013 09:30 PM EDT
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Green spaces boosts wellbeing of urban dwellers - study

(Photo : Creative Commons Via Flickr/Andrea_44)

In the hustle and bustle of urban life; traffic, pollution and stress abound. A new study by the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom say that city dwellers living near parks, gardens and green spaces are happier and have an overall higher quality of life.

The researcher's analyzed data from 5,000 UK households, which amounted to around 12,000 individuals, gathered between 1991 - 2008. They found that people living in urban areas near greater amounts of green space, were significantly happier, had lower mental distress higher wellbeing and life satisfaction.

This is not particularly a revolutionary discovery, but it's always good to have scientific evidence. The findings could help to inform urban planners and have an impact on society at large, they said.

The study noted that this finding held true even after the researchers accounted for changes over time in participants' income, employment, marital status, physical health, and housing type.

 "We've found that living in an urban area with relatively high levels of green space can have a significantly positive impact on wellbeing, roughly equal to a third of the impact of being married," said Dr Mathew White from the University of Exeter Medical School's European Center for Environment & Human Health, in Truro, Cornwall who led the study.

The results show that even when stacked up against other factors that contribute to life satisfaction, living in a greener area has a significant effect.

"These kinds of comparisons are important for policymakers when trying to decide how to invest scarce public resources, such as for park development or upkeep, and figuring out what 'bang' they'll get for their buck" said Dr White.

The new research does not prove that moving to a greener area will necessarily cause increased happiness, but it does fit with findings from experimental studies showing that short bouts of time in a green space can improve people's mood and cognitive functioning

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