When you think of the term ‘green space’, a variety of images may come to mind. A lush forest, a field of tall grass, maybe an exotic jungle. However, for those of us that live in a city our green spaces are likely limited to two options: field of grass or park with trees. Does your neighborhood have an accessible green space? The answer could affect your mental health.

City Living

Life in the city can be great! Fabulous restaurants, bars, event centers, and shopping. The best part – it’s all within easy access. However, all those looming buildings and never-ending roadways can impose a disconnect from nature. Most of us city dwellers have had that “I need to get out of the city!” moment at one point (or many). Previous research has already suggested that green spaces are good for our mental health. But are all ‘green spaces’ equally beneficial? In other words, does it make a difference if we spend time in grassy fields versus parks filled with trees?

Green Spaces and our mental health

Research on Green Spaces

A recent study by the University of Wollongong has found that living within a walkable distance from a tree dense area can lower the risk of developing psychological distress.
man laying on tree branch

Previous studies have already indicated that green space is good for mental health. “Studies back this up.” Said researcher Associate Professor Feng,

“Walks through green space have been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve mental acuity, boost memory recall and reduce feelings of anxiety.”

The new study, however, sought to determine if type of green space impacts results. The researchers tracked the changes in health for approximately 46,000 people aged 45 and older living in three major cities in Australia.

Trees VS Grass

Results of the study suggested that type of green space does matter. In areas with a tree canopy of 30% or more, adults had a 31% lower likelihood of developing Psychological distress. Urban areas that featured open grass space, however, did not show these same benefits. Consequently, tree dense areas seem to be the superior green space.

itching GIF by Vulture.com

There are a multitude of reasons why trees could benefit mental health. For instance, sensory relief could be one explanation. Urban areas tend to be dominated by glass, concrete, and hard surfaces. Green, leafy trees can provide some much-needed change in scenery for urban areas. Tree cover also provides comfortable spaces where we can interact with other people as well as animals. This social interaction can be beneficial to mental health.

So if you are scouting out that perfect high-rise apartment in the downtown core look for a place close to a park… with trees!

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