Green spaces in urban areas significantly improve health, a new report has found. The report, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, said the results were particularly significant for those suffering from mental health illnesses.
Health benefits were also seen in 15 of 24 disease clusters for those living within a .6 mile radius of green space.
The research conducted by the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam looked at the health records of 350,000 people registered with 195 family doctors across the Netherlands.
The researchers from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam looked at the health records of over 300,000 people from 96 medical practices in the Netherlands, the whole process involving over 190 family doctors.
Only people who had been with their GP for over a year were considered as 12 months was deemed the minimum amount of time before the effects of green space could be noted.
While most health benefits registered only when people lived less than a half-mile from the green space, certain illnesses were impacted when the green spaces were located within a two mile radius.
The exceptions to this were anxiety disorders and infectious diseases of the digestive system. Psychosomatic illnesses also dropped for people living within two miles of green spaces.
Overall general well-being was improved with the most notable effect seen in a reduction of anxiety disorders and depression.
Dr. Jolanda Maas of the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam said the project had shown how important green spaces were to communities. “It clearly shows that green spaces are not just a luxury but they relate directly to diseases and the way people feel in their living environments,” he told the ABC.
“Most of the diseases which are related to green spaces are diseases which are highly prevalent and costly to treat so policy makers need to realize that this is something they may be able to diminish with green spaces.”
Researchers said they believed it was not only the open air and exercise that contributed to the benefits of green spaces, but also the social contact.
The research project also noted that green spaces were most effective in semi-urban areas rather than densely urban areas, while overall improvements were most noticeable for children under 12.
A survey conducted last year by England’s.National Trust noted that one in eight places throughout the United Kingdom suffered from green place poverty.
Survey participants said too few people had access to green spaces which they believed catered to the much needed experiences of fresh air, relaxation, and wild life.