Green spaces have a positive effect on mental health
The colour green has long been associated with energy, renewal, refreshing and harmony. And research points to the fact that green spaces like parks, gardens, sports fields, green belts and wetlands make a significant contribution to our health and wellbeing.
And while that’s an important finding in itself, what makes it even more significant is the fact that, according to 2018 data released by Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 55% of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas.
Furthermore, according to a press release issued by the division, “Projections show that urbanization, the gradual shift in residence of the human population from rural to urban areas, combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, with close to 90% of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa.”
Not only are green spaces wonderfully verdant sanctuaries in the midst of concrete jungles, they also fulfil a multi-faceted role in the urban environment by:
– Providing a quiet space to relax and recharge.
– Encouraging physical activity in adults and children – running, walking, cycling, playing.
– Providing a beautiful, natural setting that inspires creativity.
– Offering a safe environment in which children can learn and have fun.
– Providing a space where friends and families can get together and celebrate special occasions.
– Offering much-needed respite from the summer heat.
The trees that grow in these green spaces also play a life-sustaining role by producing oxygen and helping to keep city air clean by filtering harmful airborne chemicals and particles.
According the World Health Organization, “Having access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being, and aid in treatment of mental illness. Some analysis suggests that physical activity in a natural environment can help remedy mild depression and reduce physiological stress indicators.”
Here’s what the research says…
According to one substantial study (as reported on by earthobservatory.nasa.gov), which involved close to one million Danish citizens, “researchers from Denmark’s University of Aarhus found that childhood exposure to green space—parks, forests, rural lands, etc.—reduces the risk for developing an array of psychiatric disorders during adolescence and adulthood.”
Some of their other findings included the following:
– Subjects who were raised in areas with the least green space close to home “had as much as a 55 percent increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in later years.”
– Exposure to green areas was equivalent to the age of the subject’s parents and their family history when it came to predicting their future mental health status. “Only socioeconomic status was a slightly stronger indicator.”
– Green spaces were found to provide the most protection against “mood disorders, depression, neurotic behavior, and stress-related issues.”
Harbour Arch, Cape Town’s first large-scale, inner-city, mixed-use precinct is located within easy reach of some of the city’s most beautiful green spaces, including the ever-popular Green Point Urban Park which includes a wetland, biodiversity garden, kids’ park and running, walking and cycling paths. It is also a short distance from Deer Park, the Company Gardens and Oranjezicht City Farm.