Happiness is green. All the benefits of a next door park

What makes New York a more attractive city than many others, despite the presence of all big cities problems, from traffic to overcrowding? Central Park. With a size of nearly four square kilometers, equipped for all kind of sports and hang out activities, in the heart of the city, the park is considered by New Yorkers an enormous added value for their urban life. It is no coincidence that the closer you get to Central Park the more property values and rents grow, becoming one of world’s highest in the areas immediately next to the green.

 

Because a park, in the city, is not just a nice thing to see. A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison has indeed detected that living next to a park makes people happier. Combining data of a recent survey on anxiety, depression and stress with the presence of green in the areas where the respondents lived, the researchers found that those who lived near a park were «significantly and measurably» happier than others. The research was later published on the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and the authors’ study indicates «that increasing green in the cities could be a low cost investment, but with high output that would allow local administrators to improve citizens’ positive mental health».

happy grandfather and child have fun and play in park

 

Another study from 2015, by a research group from the University of Essex, England, analyzed the differences between doing exercise at the gym rather than outdoor in a park, detecting distinct advantages in favor of the outdoor on the indoor. This study addressed a methodological gap by comparing psychological and social outcomes of exercise in green outdoors versus built indoors settings, whilst rigorously controlling exercise mode and intensity. The hypotheses were that greater improvements or more desirable values for directed attention, mood, perceived exertion, social interaction time, intention for future exercise behavior and enjoyment would be associated with outdoors compared to indoors exercise. Social interaction time significantly predicted intention for future exercise in the outdoors condition, but did not in the indoor condition.

 

But, beside scientific studies, we can also think about our personal experience. When the first spring sunshine comes out, our kids can’t wait to finally return to play at the park with their friends, and also for us a nice reading outdoors or a chat with other parents is way better than placing the kids in front of the TV or the tablet, or inventing games to play at home. And it surely would be even better having the opportunity to avoid a car ride to the park, with all the usual parking, traffic and time problems. In this regard, here are the latest findings from the University of Exeter research team, England again, led by Dr Mathew White (branched from the authoritative Psychological Science journal), concerning the park or green area proximity positive impact on the quality of life and, also, on the housing price. Although this is not an extraordinary nor unexpected discovery, the researchers were able to estimate that buying a house near a large green area can have an impact on the well-being equivalent to one third of what is produced by marriage, which is one of life events that produces the greatest level of happiness, or one-tenth of happiness produced from getting a new job.

 

More specifically, the researchers were able to assess the degree of well-being and satisfaction (or, conversely, the degree of psychological distress and dissatisfaction) of a large group of participants in the sample, crossing these subjective perceptions with point data on their place of residence and, in particular, on the presence of green around the house of the respondents. In the light of monitoring and data analysis, the study found out that happiness and greater satisfaction levels were higher in those who live near parks or open green areas.

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