RESEARCH CONFIRMS URBAN GREEN IMPACTS RESIDENTS' HEALTH
1 July 2009
The Australian urban landscape is changing, seeing urban-dwellers experience what could be the gradual eradication of critical urban green spaces.
As buildings get larger and plots of land stay the same, green-life is being incorporated as a visual ele
The Australian urban landscape is changing, seeing urban-dwellers experience what could be the gradual eradication of critical urban green spaces. As buildings get larger and plots of land stay the same, green-life is being incorporated as a visual element, rather than a functional living space enhancement.
In an Australian first, a global research study entitled ‘The Green We Need’ was recently commissioned by Nursery & Garden Industry Australia (NGIA) and undertaken by Professor Allyson Holbrook at the Centre for the Study of Research Training (SORTI) at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
The study was carried out to gain a better understanding of the health and wellbeing benefits directly linked to green-life, in order to better inform stakeholders, like builders and planners, on the specific impact that plants have on our quality of life.
We all know that green spaces, like gardens, parks and urban green life, are anecdotally good for us because we feel better after time spent around nature. For centuries the garden has been regarded as a place to engage in healthy activity, seek peace of mind and nurture relationships.
With stress-related disorders, anxiety, depression and heart disease are all on the rise, the study has shown that daily interactions with plants in both personal and public spaces can positively impact physical, mental and social health. With this potential to improve residents’ wellbeing, green space could add enormous value to urban developments.
The research has also revealed that urban planners primarily focus on visual and physical elements of green spaces when developing a project, with generally no significant attention paid to the health benefits that these spaces provide.
Robert Prince, NGIA CEO, commented, “Strong research evidence has linked green-life to health, and it is important that we recognise this as we build our cities. The impact of plants should not be underestimated, and by working together with stakeholders, we can ensure a greener future for Australia.”
NGIA is calling for the health and wellbeing aspects of greenery to be recognised and put on the agenda for the future discussion of urban development. Australians need to identify and explore green impacts more systematically and extensively across more areas if a healthy population is the ultimate goal.
‘The Green We Need’ Key Findings:
‘The Green We Need’ Research Study was undertaken to identify a direct connection or link between green life in an urban context and human health and well being. The research was commissioned by Nursery & Garden Industry Australia (NGIA) and undertaken by Professor Allyson Holbrook at the Centre for the Study of Research Training and Impact (SORTI) at the University of Newcastle, Aust.
• Search for studies in English using new or existing data/information to investigate a link, connection or interaction between urban dwellers and green spaces or plant life
• Primary areas of interest included:
1. Physical and mental health (including diet, nutrition, physical activity, physical health, mental health and restoration)
2. Quality of life(including public ‘general’ health, well being, behaviours and feelings)
3. Social health impact (including social interaction as well as education and learning)
• Initial review of 700+ published articles
• Detailed analysis of 171 articles produced in 75 academic journals since 2000
• 35% of the journals were in the top 20% (journals held in high esteem) and 63% were in the top 50%
• Research predominantly from USA (72%), UK (38%), Australia (15%), Sweden (10%)
The research was spread across three common green spaces, including –
• 54% “Gardens”- Private green spaces including school gardens, hospital therapeutic gardens, domestic gardens, community gardens, and aged residential gardens
• 41% “Public Green Space”- woodlands and forests, parks, and other green space (eg: green spaces around housing estates
• 5% “Green representations”- photographs of gardens or public green spaces
Data included in the research study assert that contact with nature promotes human health and well being and show that the following can be supported with certainty -
• People prefer natural environments
• Having nature in close proximity or just knowing it exists is important regardless of whether people are regular ‘users’ of nature
• People have more positive outlook on life and reveal higher life satisfaction when they live in proximity to nature
• The majority of places people consider favourite are natural and are recuperative
• There are beneficial physiological effects
• Natural environments foster recovery from mental fatigue and are restorative
• There are established methods of nature based therapy that show success in healing
• Exposure to natural environments enhances ability to cope with, and recover from stress, cope with subsequent stress and recover from illness or injury, and
• Observing nature can restore concentration and improve productivity
Other specific results, include -
• Moderate to energetic gardening activity can provide the level of exercise necessary to reduce the risk of mortality in a high risk group of patients (Wanamethee 2000)
• Gardeners have a higher life satisfaction and rate their health and physical activity levels higher than non-gardeners (Walliczek, Zajicek and Lineberger 2005)
• Visits and activities to certain types of green spaces and positive experiences of the garden in childhood have been shown to promote those activities in adulthood. The strength of childhood connection is a factor of importance for the future adult, as well as promoting healthier activities and assimilation of new knowledge in childhood. (Schultz et al. 2004; Mayer and Frantz 2004)
• Stressed or anxious people turn to green for repair and refuge. Even the knowledge that they can access such an environment and that there is green nearby helps them and plays a role in reducing stress and restoring a positive state of mind (Knecht 2004).
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