'Green spaces' promote health



Hyde Park

Take time to wander through the parks of your city - being close to nature is good for your health, new research has shown.

Credit: City of Sydney/Paul Green

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Green spaces in Australia's urban landscape are a positive influence on health, new research has confirmed.

While stretches of green, like gardens, parks and urban green life, have long been anecdotally good for us - with many people reporting feeling better simply spending time around nature - there is now research evidence to confirm this.

In an Australian first, a global study entitled The Green We Need was commissioned by Nursery & Garden Industry Australia (NGIA), and undertaken by Allyson Holbrook at the University of Newcastle, in New South Wales.

The study was devised in order to better inform professionals, including builders and planners, on the specific impact that plants have on our quality of life, revealing the health and wellbeing benefits directly linked to greenery.

With stress-related disorders, anxiety, depression and heart disease 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.

People living in close proximity to nature were found to have a more positive outlook on life, and reported being able to better cope with and recover from stress, illness and injuries. Exposure to natural environments was also found to restore concentration and improve productivity.

With this potential to improve residents' wellbeing, green space could add enormous value to urban developments, the study suggests.

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.

"Strong research evidence has linked green-life to health, and it is important that we recognise this as we build our cities," said Robert Prince, Chief Executive Officer of NGIA. "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, they said.