I read an article in The American Gardener magazine giving a synopsis of four scientific studies about the positive effect of green spaces on humans. They all concluded that being exposed to green environments resulted in both mental and physical health. Also, the type of green space didn’t matter. It could be gardens, golf courses, parks, forests, etc. They were all beneficial.
The first study was conducted in Germany and showed forests increase healthy brain activity. It discovered people living near forested areas in Berlin had healthier activity in the part of the brain controlling emotions. Land-use records and brain scans were employed to study adults 60 years and older. The assumption being people that age aren’t as active as younger people, so they are more affected by their close surroundings.
The next study showed green spaces extend life expectancy. This was a much larger study by researchers at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. It studied 1.3 million people in their nation’s largest cities over 11 years. The study concluded people living close to green spaces had a lower risk of dying prematurely from natural causes. The study which also utilized satellite imaging and postal records showed the type of green space did not matter.
The conclusion that plants help children concentrate came from a study conducted by INMA, a Spanish organization. The study evaluated a group of children at various stages of their development. The kids living near green spaces scored higher on attention tests, a necessary skill for learning.
The final study comes from the University of British Colombia, Okanagan that evaluated students’ visceral reactions to nature and how it affected their emotional state. The undergraduates participating in the study were told to photograph objects or scenes that elicited a reaction from them, and then record what their response was. The resulting data showed nature evoked much more positive themes than man-made structures. After the study, the participants who were asked to look at natural scenes demonstrated happier, more prosocial attitudes.
Gardeners have always known the natural world is important to our well-being. Each new study adds empirical evidence. I’m going to stop typing and go take a walk down to the woods on my road and think about what I will plant in my gardens next year.
The Master Gardeners of Illinois Extension wish you a happy holiday season and a happy new gardening year. Please call us with your gardening questions at 217-465-8585.
SOURCE: Jan Phipps, Master Gardener, Edgar County
ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.