We often hear of increased housing and development projects having a detrimental effect on our natural environments. With an ever increasing population, the number of natural areas is dwindling in comparison with urban expansion. But does this come at a cost to our mental health?
It is widely known that plant life contributes to human survival through production of oxygen and through its role as a carbon sink. However, it has been suggested that green areas can greatly benefit your health in other ways. The Woodland Trust’s chief executive, Sue Holden, has said that the NHS could save £2.1bn per year by increasing the population’s access to green spaces. This is backed up by studies showing that access to green spaces increase people’s wellbeing and has a positive effect on health.
A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that urbanisation could be a contributing factor to mental health issues: populations living closer to green areas tend to have lower levels of mental health problems. Holden also said that just 14% of people in England have access to green spaces within 500 metres from their home.
The concept that nature is in some way beneficial to your wellbeing is a relatively easy one to grasp. Consider how often you have heard a friend say that they are going to grab some fresh air. Furthermore, a concrete jungle is not often considered an idyllic view…
And if exposure to nature did not improve psychological wellbeing, there would be significantly fewer red panda pictures circulating our social media, and fewer sites dedicated to videos of hilarious sloth antics. Clearly, not all psychological issues can be solved by buying a potted plant, but it would appear that preservation of the UK’s natural habitats would be hugely beneficial, both financially and for the wellbeing of the population. Perhaps it should be considered a higher priority.