The team gathered their data from the British Household Panel Survey in the form of questionnaires filled in by households across the country.
By following participants over a five year period, the research found that moving to a greener area did not only improve people’s mental health initially, but that the effects were sustained for at least three years.
It is one of the first studies to consider the effects of green space over time. The Exeter team ensured they had adjusted their data to remove effects from other factors likely to alter the participant’s mental health. These factors included income, employment and education – as well as factors related to personality.
Lead researcher, Dr Ian Alcock, believes the study’s results could have important implications, saying: “These findings have significance for urban planning policy, which might aim to improve public health through the development of green spaces in urban areas. It suggests that new parks and urban corridors may have long term benefits for communities”.
The results could directly address the World Health Organisation’s warning that “the burden of depression and other mental health conditions are on the rise globally”.
Student welfare can also be linked to the research, with the Office for National Statistics outlining how the number of student suicides has doubled in women and risen by over a third in men, in just four years. The study builds on research that has found natural environments could act as vital resources to counteract stressful lives.
Emily Leahy, News Teambookmark me