Would you be happier living in a greener area?

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Significant improvements in mental health can be seen by just moving to a greener urban area, say researchers.

Using data from the British Household Panel Survey, the team at the University of Exeter found people are happier when living in urban areas with greater amounts of green space.

Compared to instances when they live in areas with less green space they show significantly lower mental distress (GHQ scores) and significantly higher wellbeing (life satisfaction).

The analysis also made it possible to compare the beneficial effects of green space with other factors which influence wellbeing.

In comparative terms, living in an area with higher levels of green space was associated with improvements in our wellbeing indicators roughly equal to a third of that gained from being married, or a tenth as large as being employed vs. unemployed.

This study draws on 18 years of panel data from over 10,000 participants to explore the self-reported psychological health of individuals over time and the relationship between urban green space, wellbeing and mental distress.

Urbanisation is considered a potential threat to mental health and wellbeing and although effects at the individual level are small, this study demonstrates that the potential benefit at a population level should be an important consideration in policies aiming to protect and promote urban green spaces for wellbeing.

The journal is published by Sage and the authors are: Mathew P. White, Ian Alcock, Benedict W. Wheeler and Michael H. Depledge.

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this news has been re-posted from the Understanding Society website