Green Spaces in Cities Seem to Lower People's Risk of Dying, According to Huge Study

Having access to green spaces like parks has been linked in a study to a lower risk of dying.

To evaluate the pros and cons of green spaces, researchers looked at nine existing studies, involving over eight million people across seven countries. The authors of the study published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health felt this was an important line of inquiry, as half of our planet's population lives in urban environments.

Past research overwhelmingly shows such spaces are positive, by appearing to encourage people to exercise, as well as boosting mental and physical health. That's despite potential risks like triggering allergies, and exposing people to chemicals like pesticides and bugs like ticks that carry Lyme disease, the authors said.

The data from Canada, the U.S. Switzerland, China, Spain, Australia and Italy showed that the more greenness there was around a home, the less likely residents were to die early of any cause.

Co-author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, director of the Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative at Barcelona Institute for Global Health, told Newsweek: "This study shows that having green space in a buffer around the house is good.

"Green space is good and important for health and cities should have a certain level of greenness [at around 20-30 percent,]" he said.

"Besides health, green space is also important for climate mitigation i.e. it reduces heat island effects in cities and is important for carbon sequestration," Nieuwenhuijsen added.

"Recently we published a study where we saw that benefits such as better mental health, more physical activity and more social contacts were larger if people actually visited green space," said Nieuwenhuijsen.

Citing a study published in the journal Scientific Reports in June, Nieuwenhuijsen went on: "Another study showed that you get many benefits if you visit green spaces at least two hours per week."

That research involved 19,806 participants who were asked about how long they spent outdoors per week. Those who spend at least 120 minutes outdoors were significantly more likely to report having good health and well-being than those who had no contact with nature, the authors found.

Nieuwenhuijsen said: "We see substantial benefits from just having green space around the house. Also it is important to note that all these studies, including this one, adjust for other factors such as social-economic status that may affect the health outcomes."

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A stock woman shows a woman reading a book in a patch of grass. Scientists believe green spaces are good for our mental and physical health. Getty