A new study from the University of Pennsylvania suggested that living close to nature within urban spaces can help to reduce depression
A recent report by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and released by the JAMA Network Open, entitled "Effect of Greening Vacant Land on Mental Health of Community-Dwelling Adults," suggests that nature's intervention in the vacant lands that are within a city has positive effects for mental health. In this study, it was discovered that of the total of the adults who participated, those who lived near green vacant lands reported a decrease in "self-diagnosed feelings of depression and uselessness", compared to those who lived near empty lands where only a garbage-cleaning was done.
Many investigations show the benefits of living close to, or in contact with, nature. In 2013, according to Medical Daily, a study "conducted by researchers from the University of Essex and published by the mental health organization Mind found that taking a walk in nature reduced depression scores in 71 percent of participants." In 2016, a report released by gob.uk and published by Natural England revealed that "taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression."
In 2017, an article by the Friends of the Earth Europe organization affirmed that there is "strong link between lack of access to nature areas and poor health outcomes and inequality." In addition, the publication explained, "it associates nature deprivation with higher obesity levels, mental health problems, and mortality rates."
Depression, in particular, is an invisible disease and more than 300 million people suffer from it, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Only in Latin America and the Caribbean, says the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 5% of the adult population suffers from this disease. Depression is not only the most common mental disorder today, it is also "one of the main causes of disability in the world," says PAHO.
Latin America and the Caribbean is a region with great diversity, with 25% of the world's forests, according to a report by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Treepedia, a page created by the MIT Senseable City Lab in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, registered the cities with the highest tree coverage, two of which are Latin American. These cities are Quito, which has a green view index of 10.3%, and Sao Paulo with a green view index of 11.7%. These figures are not very encouraging if one takes into account that countries with more trees exceed 20% of the green view index. However, these Latin American cities are little by little doing something to change that panorama.
It may interest you: What do Latin American countries do to protect their forests?
On the one hand, the capital of Ecuador is a city with a "high level of green spaces in relation to its current number of inhabitants (2.6 million). The Green Urban Index (IUV) of the capital is 21.6 square meters (m²) for each inhabitant. Significant figure if one takes into account that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends an SVI of 9 m²," according to El Telégrafo. For some years, this city has been working on planting trees in this urban space. According to the same media, in 2015 7 thousand trees were sown, a figure that increased to 15 thousand trees in 2017.
On the other hand, Brazil is one of the countries where some of the greenest cities in Latin America are located. However, one of the highlights is Sao Paulo. Brazilian media Exame explains that "Mayor João Doria (PSDB) has already promised more than once that in 2020, at the end of his term, Sao Paulo will have won one million trees. The plan of goals, however, defines the planting of 200 thousand. The secretary of the Green, Gilberto Natalini, explains that this goal is the town's own plantation, but that they are looking for alliances with the private initiative to extend the delivery. According to him, only this year 55 thousand trees have already been planted and at least one company has already set out to plant another 400,000 trees."
This not only accounts for the need to improve the conditions of a city in view of the fact that, as Exame mentions, tree planting helps to reduce pollution and humidify the air; besides bringing benefits to physical and mental health through the reforestation of these spaces that have been transformed by man. "Studies in cities in Europe and the United States also pointed to a reduction in depression, the risk of death from cardiorespiratory diseases and a general improvement in the well-being of those who live in greener urban areas," explains the report. That is why at the end of the study of the University of Pennsylvania it is explained that this type of "treatment of dilapidated physical environments can be an important tool for communities to address persistent mental health problems."
LatinAmerican Post | Diana Rojas Leal
Translated from "Vivir cerca de espacios verdes puede ayudar a tratar problemas de salud mental"