Home > Health > Wellness > How green spaces can reduce psychological distress

How green spaces can reduce psychological distress

A new study shows that having just 10% more forest space in a person’s residential area can reduce serious psychological distress

The loss of urban forest cover not only affects the environment but also negatively impacts people’s mental health, new study finds. (Pexels)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 05.01.2024  |  03:33 PM IST

It’s well-known that spending time in green spaces can be beneficial for overall well-being. Now, a new study showed that having just 10% more forest space in a person’s residential area can reduce serious psychological distress.

The study, led by researchers from Washington State University, found that even small differences in the availability of urban green and blue spaces could be linked to better mental and physical health in older adults. It highlights that the loss of urban forest cover not only affects the environment but also negatively impacts people’s mental health. The findings were published in the journal Health & Place.

TRENDING STORIES

Also read: Forest bathing shows how deforestation can affect well-being

For this, the researchers analysed data from more than 42,000 people aged 65 and older who lived in urban areas of Washington state between 2011 and 2019. The results showed that almost 2% of respondents showed signs of serious psychological distress and 19% reported having fair or poor general health.

Generally, older people are vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression, which can increase the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Notably, they are also less likely to receive treatment to manage these issues.

According to the researchers, older adults with depression, anxiety or mental health issues are also more resistant to medical interventions or talk therapy, which are the go-to treatments for these conditions. "If exposure to green or blue spaces could help prevent, delay or even treat poor mental health in older adults, we need to look at that more closely as a way to improve mental health outcomes in this population," study author Adhitya Vegaraju said in the statement.

Nature-based prescriptions are a growing trend wherein doctors advise patients to spend time outside, Vegaraju adds. "It is thought that exposure to green and blue spaces could help slow cognitive decline," said Amiri in the statement. Expanding on this, the researchers want to know would like to know if green and blue space exposure can influence dementia directly or by reducing mental health issues linked to cognitive decline.

Previous studies have also shown that greener neighbourhoods boost mental health. For instance, in October, a study published in the Science of the Total Environment showed that green spaces such as a neighbourhood’s parks and public spaces can have a positive impact on an important genetic marker associated with exposure to stress.

Also read: How greener neighbourhoods improve well-being