Green areas reduce gap between rich and poor




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It's not money, but trees that do more for your health, according to new research.

A study of mortality rates and income levels in the UK has revealed that low-income families living in green areas were almost as healthy as their affluent neighbours.

"We found that the health gap between the rich and poor is much lower in areas with the greenest environments," researcher Richard Mitchell from the University of Glasgow said.

Mitchell and his team compared the health and wellbeing of people across a range of incomes to the amount of green space in their area.

They found that people of low incomes living in green areas were less likely to die than those in more industrialised areas.

In particular, poorer people in green areas were less likely to die from heart disease than those living in developed suburbs on the same income.

According to Mitchell, the study could provide a solution to some of the difficulties faced by low-income families.

"The implications of this study are clear: environments that promote good health might be crucial in the fight to reduce health inequalities," he said.

Andrew Allan, an urban planner from the University of South Australia in Adelaide, who was not involved in the study, said the findings did not surprise him. "Even if people do not always actively use 'green spaces', it can have psychological benefits because it makes cities more restful and aesthetically pleasing places to be," he said.

"Providing green space in cities from a planning perspective is a vital component of good city planning," he said, "particularly with regard to maintaining biodiversity in urban areas, promoting networks for environmentally appropriate travel and providing communities with access to recreational areas."

Terry Harti, a behavioural psychologist from Uppsala University in Sweden said the study is evidence that green space does more than "pretty up the neighbourhood."

"It appears to have real effects on health inequality, of a kind that politicians and health authorities should take seriously," he said.