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Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Date:10/15/2009

Study finds measurable health benefits for those with easy access to nature

THURSDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The closer you live to nature, the healthier you're likely to be.

For instance, people who live within 1 kilometer of a park or wooded area experience less anxiety and depression, Dutch researchers report.

The findings put concrete numbers on a concept that many health experts had assumed to be true.

"It's nice to see that it shows that, that the closer humans are to the natural environment, that seems to have a healthy influence," said Dr. David Rakel, director of integrative medicine and assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

One previous study had noted fewer health inequalities between rich and poor people in areas with lots of green space, and other studies have echoed these health benefits. But much of this research had relied on people's perceptions of their physical and mental health.

This new objective look at the matter involved scouring medical records of 345,143 people in Holland, assessing health status for 24 conditions, including cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological diseases. This information was then correlated with how much green space was located within 1 kilometer and 3 kilometers of a person's postal code.

People living in more urban environments had a higher prevalence of 15 of the 24 conditions, with the relationship strongest for anxiety disorder and depression.

In areas with only 10 percent of green space, about 2.6 percent of people experienced anxiety disorders, compared to 1.8 percent of people in areas with 90 percent green space. The disparity was evident for depression as well -- 3.2 percent of people living in more urbanized areas had depression versus 2.4 percent of those in more rural areas.

The health benefits were evident only when the g
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