Green Space and Good Health
The connection between green space and community health has been discussed, researched and extensively studied for some time. The conclusion is that the amount of open, green space in the form agricultural, urban or natural green space definitely has an effect on the surrounding community. However, analysis shows that relationship varies based on socioeconomic and age groups. Although the percentage of green space on perceived health has been shown to be significant within a one and three kilometer radii at just about all levels of urbanity. This relationship appears to be strongest in the lower socioeconomic groups. The next groups benefitting the most from close proximity to green space are the elderly, youth and those with secondary education living in large cities. Green space is more than just a luxury and due to its positive association with the perceived health of the general population should be preserved and included in community spatial planning. (Jolanda Maas, Robert A Verheij, Peter P Groenewegen, Sjerp de Vries, and Peter Spreeuwenberg, “Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation?” J Epidemiol Community Health. Jul 2006; 60(7): 587–592.)
Increased urban sprawl has people facing the possibility of living with decreased access to green spaces, and studies have shown that a more natural living environment has positive effects on people’s self perceived health which leads to lower health risks. The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health initiated a study in which they actually analyzed the medical records of 345,143 people, as opposed to relying solely on self reporting. The findings of this study reveal that living within a one kilometer radius of green space significantly reduced 15 out of 24 disease clusters including cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, mental illness, respiratory disease, neurological disease, digestive disease, and miscellaneous complaints. The link appeared strongest with anxiety and depression disorders, suggesting that mental health may be particularly affected by amount of and proximity to green space. The cause of this connection between mental and physical health and green space has not been directly identified and research continues in order to more clearly identify the mechanism behind this relationship. (Collingwood, Jane “Proximity to Green Spaces Boosts Health” http://psychcentral.com/lib/proximity-to-green-spaces-boosts-health/0005365)
Whether proven or perceived the preservation of green spaces is important to society and the environment. If nothing else, natural areas provide a visual and tactile buffer between our fast-paced, stress-filled society and the untouched, easily appreciated simplicity of the wild. Green space gives us a physical break from the impermeable surfaces and hardscapes that fill the modern world. In addition to the health benefits accorded by our parks and agricultural spaces, they also play an important environmental role in our urban environments by acting as stormwater and carbon dioxide sinks, mitigating flood water and improving air quality, attracting pollinators and preserving their habitat, affording forage and habitat for wildlife and more. Green space makes a great societal impact, get involved with conserving and creating green space in your community; attend town planning meetings and participate in elections and polls, join the local green space or garden committee and make responsible choices on your own landscape. We all benefit from conservation, preservation and creation of green space, any little bit makes a big difference, we cannot stand idly by while our wild and natural places disappear.