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You should get in touch with nature more often, here's why

© eberhard grossgasteiger/Pexels

As the world battled the COVID-19 pandemic, many people found a safe haven in nature, thus discovering or rediscovering its benefits on mental and physical health. Jay Maddock, experimental psychologist and director of the Center for Health & Nature at Texas A&M University, notes that interest in the health benefits of nature has “exploded” since then.

An observation established in an article published in volume 330 of the journal Scientific American, showing that the scientific community is increasingly interested in this theme in the context of public health. Even if the Earth is warming, that's no excuse for not taking advantage of the best it has to offer!

Scientifically proven benefits

A 2019 study of 19,000 people in the United Kingdom indicated that those spending more than two hours a day in nature (parks, forests or beaches) were healthier than people who did not do so. Clearly, spending more time in nature is associated with a multitude of health benefits: lowering blood pressure, strengthening the immune system, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and improved sleep quality.

This study also suggests that time spent in nature could slow the shortening of telomeres, structures composed of sequences of ’ Repetitive DNA located at the ends of chromosomes, which protect them from degradation. Over time, these shorten and can no longer effectively protect the chromosomes, which is considered an indicator of biological aging.

The evidence highlighted by this study is quite clear: taking regular walks in nature reduces depressive symptoms, alleviates stress and improves cognitive function overall.

Health inequalities and access to green spaces

This research was also an opportunity to point out a major concern: the# 8217;unequal access to green spaces in an urban setting contributes to health disparities observed in low-income communities. These, often lacking quality parks and wooded areas, would be seriously disadvantaged.

Jennifer D. Roberts is a health equity specialist at the University of Maryland. The researcher notes that neighborhoods formerly affected by “redlining” (practices of geographical discrimination in terms of financial services and various resources) are not in the same boat as “classic” neighborhoods. Even if redlining is now illegal, these neighborhoods still have less green spaces than demographically similar areas that have not been affected by this practice.

For Marcia P. Jimenez, epidemiologist at the School of Public Health from Boston University, implementing green spaces in these disadvantaged areas is a crucial starting point. « Increasing greenery among these vulnerable populations could essentially address health inequities. This is where we need to start » she explains.

Technology at the service of health

The Nature company -Quant has developed a tool specially dedicated to assessing the impact of green spaces on mental health, called NatureScore. This uses map data from Google Street View by combining it with the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). This is an indicator used to analyze the presence and condition of vegetation in a given area based on satellite images.

Using this method, it is possible to obtain an objective and accurate measurement of the surrounding greenery of a specific location. That's why Jay Maddock and his team used it in this study conducted in Texas in 2024 to examine how access to green spaces affects people's mental health . The results are clear: in areas with a higher NatureScore (therefore with a greater presence of greenery) the rates of use of nature services mental health were significantly lower.

These results suggest that greener urban environments may play a protective role against mental disorders, by guaranteeing a more soothing decor for the people living there.

For decision-makers and urban planners, these data are particularly relevant. The results of these studies prove not only the benefits given by the presence of nature on an individual scale, but also the possibility of reducing health inequalities on a broader scale by correctly orienting urban planning strategies. If you can, get out of the house as much as you can. Not for shopping, but for a breath of fresh air in the nearest park!

  • A 2019 study conducted in the United Kingdom proved the benefits of nature on an individual level, whether for physical or mental health.
  • This same study highlighted the negative effects of unequal access to green spaces, particularly for the most disadvantaged communities.
  • In a 2024 study using NatureScore, results showed that vegetated areas in Texas tend to support individual well-being.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116