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More Green Spaces Equal Better Health for All
Sarah Kuck, 11 Nov 08

city%20park.jpg A recent study offers hard evidence of something many of us have known for a long time: access to nature improves our health. According to the researchers' findings, as reported in this BBC article, the abundance of green space in a city can help protect residents from strokes and heart disease, and can reduce health inequalities related to income and social deprivation. Even small parks, they said, greatly narrow the health gaps between these populations.

When the records of more than 366,000 people who died between 2001 and 2005 were analyzed, it revealed that even tiny green spaces in the areas in which they lived made a big difference to their risk of fatal diseases.

Although the effect was greatest for those living surrounded by the most greenery, with the "health gap" roughly halved compared with those with the fewest green spaces around them, there was still a noticeable difference.
The change was particularly clear in areas such as heart disease and stroke, supporting the idea that the presence of green spaces encourages people to be more active.
However, the researchers, Dr Richard Mitchell from Glasgow University, and Dr Frank Popham, from the University of St Andrews, said that other studies had suggested that contact with green spaces also helped reduce blood pressure and stress levels, perhaps even promoting faster healing after surgery.

Creating equal access to green space is clearly an environmental justice issue: the more funding the parks in your neighborhood receive, the better kept and abundant the parks will be, resulting in better health for you and your neighbors. The big picture benefit from this study's findings is that city officials, such as planners and council members, can use this scientific evidence to help fund parks and other green spaces that will improve the health and wellness of all residents.

Image credit: Flickr/Barb46, Creative Commons License

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It's studies like this that make me happy I live in Chicago. Mayor Daley has made it one of his priorities to increase the amount of green space in the city and it has really made a difference.

Posted by: Matt D> on 11 Nov 08



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