Green Space Linked to Better Mental Health

Go out and enjoy the city’s parks and green spaces—research says it’s good for you.

Green space

The Common is calling your name. Photo via Shutterstock

A new study proves what any sunny day spent lounging in the Common can tell you: Green space is good for your overall health and wellbeing.

The study, out of the UK’s European Centre for the Environment and Human Health and published in the journal Psychological Science, drew on the results of a survey asking 10,000 adults to assess their psychological health as they moved around the country over a 17-year period. The results, which the researchers calculated using the General Health Questionnaire and measuring life satisfaction, showed that those living in greener areas had self-described better mental health, even in the face of major life changes like shifting employment, income, and relationships. And the effects aren’t small—according to the study, green space can raise wellbeing about one third as much as being married and about one tenth as much as being employed.

This isn’t the first study of its kind, either. The CDC says green space can help with everything from injury recovery to concentration and focus, and a 2007 study published in the Journal of Public Mental Health reported on the connection between green space and public health. A BBC article about the latest research quotes the study’s author, Dr. Matthew White, about what such results could mean for society:

“This research could be important for psychologists, public health officials and urban planners who are interested in learning about the effects that urbanisation and city planning can have on population health and wellbeing.”

It’s also important for city dwellers, many of whom (ourselves included) see more cement and skyscrapers than grass and trees. And since Massachusetts was ranked fifth most stressed state in the country in 2012 by a Gallup poll, with 43.4 percent of respondents answering that they felt stressed “yesterday,” we should be doing all that we can to improve our happiness and psychological health. It looks like spring is finally here for good, so take advantage of your next day off and spend it strolling through the Public Garden, the Fens, or the Arboretum—for your health’s sake.