Living close to nature and spending time outside has significant health benefits, according to new research from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K.
A new report reveals that exposure to greenspace, something that farm families have in abundance, reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure.
Populations with higher levels of greenspace exposure are also more likely to report good overall health, according to global data involving more than 290 million people.
“Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term well-being hasn’t been fully understood,” said the study’s lead author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from UEA’s medical school.
“We gathered evidence from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people to see whether nature really does provide a health boost.”
The research team studied data from 20 countries.
Green space was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation, as well as urban greenspaces, which included urban parks and street greenery. The study did not mention farmland, or natural areas at the margins of most farms and whether that would considered “greenspace”.
“We found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration.
“People living closer to nature also had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and stress. In fact, one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol, a physiological marker of stress,” said Twohig-Bennett.
The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes was published in the journal Environmental Research on July 6.