For some time now, researchers have been telling us that living in an urban environment isn’t always good for our mental health. Studies have shown that city dwellers are more likely to suffer from anxiety, high stress, and other mental health disorders when compared to folks who live in a more pastoral environment. Happily, there is hope for those who don’t want to give up their city life, even for the promise of better mental health; new studies reveal that close proximity to urban green spaces can be just as beneficial as living in an area completely encompassed by nature.
According to a recent report from the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology journal, there are longitudinal effects on mental health for those who have moved from an urban area to a greener environment, including green environments that are still in a city. The study used panel data to explore three different hypotheses about how moving to greener or less green areas may affect mental health over time, and revealed that close proximity to city parks is just as beneficial to one’s mental health as living in the country.
According to the report, “Despite growing evidence of public health benefits from urban green space there has been little longitudinal analysis. […] Moving to greener urban areas was associated with sustained mental health improvements, suggesting that environmental policies to increase urban green space may have sustainable public health benefits.” Many city planners and governments have proposed massive projects to increase and improve the green areas in their respective cities in recent years. Now, evidence shows that doing so will not only improve the city’s appearance, but can impact the mental health of residents who live near those areas. As urban design writer Shaunacy Ferro explains, “For urban designers and policymakers, [improving a city’s green spaces is] something to consider. Parks and patches of trees and grass aren’t just aesthetic flourish; they’re a significant aspect of keeping urban spaces happy and livable.”
Prominent models of urban green spaces include the Boston Common, Central Park, Shelby Bottoms Greenway in Nashville, and both Dolores Park and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Do you think it’s important for urban policymakers to prioritize the development of green spaces?