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Green areas in cities have to be protected – they bring people happiness and life satisfaction

Posted August 28, 2019

More and more people live in cities. Urbanization is a huge movement in today’s world. However, people don’t want to separate themselves from nature and it is very important to maintains as many green spaces in cities as possible. Researchers from the Newcastle University, the University of Warwick and the University of Sheffield found that living within 300 metres of urban green space brings happiness, sense of worth, and life satisfaction.

Living close to a green area is good for your mental health. Image credit: daryl_mitchell via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Scientists analyzed data from  from 25,518 people. They matched their living areas to green spaces nearby. Researchers identified a strong association between closeness to a green space, such as a park, and life satisfaction, happiness and self-worth. In fact, both distance to the green space and its size were major factors. The best effect was achieved if that little nature area was not further than 300 meters away. Also, the bigger it was, the happier people who lived nearby were – an increase of 1 hectare brought an increase of 8 % in a life satisfaction, 7  % in worth and 5 % in happiness.

You may think – “That’s all well and good, but people can find other ways to be happy and satisfied in their lives”. And you’re right – green space was less important for mental wellbeing in Central London and East London. However, scientists found that parks, nature reserves or play areas were more important in this regard than lifestyle factors such as employment, income, and general health. This is the first study of this kind to prove what we probably knew for a long time – people are happier if they have an easy access to at least a patch of nature somewhere nearby.

Dr Victoria Houlden, one of the authors of the study, said: “A lot of research focuses on poor mental health, or single aspects of wellbeing like life satisfaction. What makes our work different is the way we consider multi-dimensional mental wellbeing, in terms of happiness, life satisfaction and worth. While government guidelines recommend minimum amounts of greenspace in residential developments, our study was able to establish more specifically where greenspace may be most valuable”.

This information, of course, has clear practical implications. City planners have to preserve the green areas in their cities. They should prioritize parks in newly developed districts. Also, they should make sure that these areas do not get smaller. Happy citizens are great voters, so hopefully policy makers are going to pay attention to this.


Source: Newcastle University

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