A new report published today reveals that exposure to greenspace reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Populations with higher levels of greenspace exposure are also more likely to report good overall health, according to global data involving more than 290 million people. Lead author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn’t been fully understood. “We gathered evidence from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people to see whether nature really does provide a health boost.” The research team studied data from 20 countries including the UK, the US, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan – where Shinrin yoku or ‘forest bathing’ is already a popular practice. ‘Green space’ was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, which included urban parks and street greenery. The team analysed how the health of people with little access to green spaces compared to that of people with the highest amounts of exposure. “We found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration. “People living closer to nature also had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and stress. In fact, one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol – a physiological marker of stress.
From University of East Anglia Photo John Vlahakis