Can Green Space Create Happier Neighborhoods?
Green space in neighborhoods can promote mental health, life satisfaction and overall well-being, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.
Scientists from the University of Exeter analyzed 18 years of data on nearly 10,000 U.K. citizens living in urban areas. Based on annual surveys, the researchers quantified participants’ well being based on how each person ranked their satisfaction with life and whether each person had signs of depression, anxiety or other psychological disorders. The researchers controlled for other factors known to significantly influence well-being, including income, job, marital status, health and commute.
Researchers discovered that, as green space expanded within a 2.5-mile radius of participants’ homes, overall well-being increased proportionally. While life satisfaction increased by two percent, psychological distress decreased by four percent. To compare, living in a greener area had mental health gains equivalent to 35 percent of those derived from being married or 12 percent of those derived from employment. The increase in life satisfaction equated to 28 percent of the satisfaction from being married or 21 percent of that from employment.
The results are especially interesting given that other factors, such as neighborhood crime rates or average neighborhood income, had no association with mental health or life satisfaction.