Parks make us happy
The mental health benefits of parks are becoming increasingly recognized by urban planners and municipalities. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that higher levels of green space in a neighbourhood were associated with lower levels of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and stress. Conversely, individuals living in areas with less than a 10% tree canopy reported higher levels of mental health issues.10
Another research initiative published in Environmental Science & Technology discovered another link between the provision of green spaces and mental health. The study tracked residents in the United Kingdom in the three years following a move from one neighbourhood to another. The data revealed that individuals who moved to areas with more green space experienced significantly better mental health. Individuals who moved to areas with less green space showed significantly worse mental health in the year following the move.11
Mental health practitioners have also recognized the therapeutic value that park spaces can provide. A 2007 New Zealand study of individuals with mental health illnesses found that over 90% reported that they benefited from green exercise activities.12 A 2010 study in the Netherlands also concluded that physician- diagnosed depression increased by 33% in residential areas with the fewest green spaces as compared to those with the highest.13
10 University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Findings published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
11 Alcock, Ian et al. (2013). Longitudinal Effects on Mental Health of Moving
to Greener and Less Green Urban Areas. Environmental Science & Technology. Published online ahead of print. DOI: 10.1021/es403688w
12 Mind. 2007. Go green to beat the blues. Press release. National Association for Mental Health.
13 “Parks and Other Green Environments: Essential Comp. of a Healthy Human Habitat” by Dr. Frances E. (Ming) Kuo. 2010. National Recreation & Park Association.