Green Space Keeps You From Feeling Blue

Posted on April 16, 2014

"Higher levels of green space were associated with lower symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress"

If you start feeling better as spring begins pushing up its tender shoots, you might be living proof of a trend discovered in data from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin: The more green space in the neighborhood, the happier people reported feeling.

About 2,500 Wisconsin residents from 229 neighborhoods answered an assessment that asked them to rate their symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. The research team, which was also led by Dr. Kirsten Beyer of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, adjusted the results to make sure they weren’t confounded by race, age, income level, education, marital status, employment and other factors.

They found that across all strata of society, people who lived in a neighborhood with less than 10 percent tree canopy were much more likely to report symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety. So, for example, a poor person living on a logging road in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest was more likely to be happy than a wealthier person living on a treeless block in Milwaukee.

Malecki notes that the study gives credence to the "attention restoration theory," which holds that more time in nature restores the ability to concentrate and reduces mental fatigue. This idea is also the theme of the book "Last Child in the Woods," which suggested that indoor lifestyle and more screen time hurt children's attention spans. It also suggests a relatively simple solution to improving the mental health of poor urban neighborhoods: Plant trees and grass.

"The greening of neighborhoods could be a simple solution to reducing stress," says Malecki. "If you want to feel better, go outside."

Category(s):Stress Management

Source material from University of Wisconsin-Madison

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