Living nearby to green spaces is more important to people than income or employment, a study has suggested.
The study, carried out by researchers at Newcastle University, the University of Warwick and the University of Sheffield, is the first to demonstrate a relationship between green space and mental wellbeing at an individual level.
Researchers combined survey responses from 25,518 participants in the UK government’s Annual Population Survey (APS) with data on the shape, size and location of London’s 20,000 public green spaces.
They then were able to model greenspace distribution in relation to where each of the survey participants lived, and explore how that influenced their mental wellbeing as revealed in their survey answers.
Most previous studies have only been able to take into account the overall amount of green space within a specific area, rather than the exact amount of green space that surrounds an individual’s home, and have found mixed results.
The study, published in the August issue of Applied Geography, found overall there is a very strong relationship between the amount of green space around a person’s home and their feelings of life satisfaction, happiness and self-worth.
It also said that green space within 300m of a home had the greatest influence on mental wellbeing.
Scott Weich, Professor of Mental Health at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘Contrary to popular opinion, up until now the evidence for the link between green space and mental wellbeing has been pretty circumstantial.
‘By combining advanced statistical and mapping methods, we’ve shown that the effect is real and substantial. Basically we’ve proven what everyone has always assumed was true.’
Professor João Porto de Albuquerque, Director of the University of Warwick’s Institute of Global Sustainable Development, added: ‘As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nation Members States committed to provide every access to green and public spaces for every citizen by 2030, which is usually measured based on the area of cities that is open space for public use.
‘However, our study makes clear that it is not only the area of public greenspace in the whole city that matters when it comes to maximising benefits for mental wellbeing.
‘We provide evidence that the proximity of greenspace to an individual’s home is important for detecting significant associations with improved mental wellbeing, and that the strength of this association may vary in different areas of the city.’
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