People who spend just 30 minutes a week in a park have much better mental health than those who don’t.
Visiting parks weekly is also linked to lower blood pressure, the Australian research has found.
The longer people spend in the park, the lower their chances of depression and high blood pressure.
Dr Danielle Shanahan, the study’s first author, said:
“If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure.
Given that the societal costs of depression alone in Australia are estimated at $A12.6 billion a year, savings to public health budgets across all health outcomes could be immense.”
Parks are now known to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and even combat heart disease.
Dr Richard Fuller, one of the study’s co-authors, said:
“We’ve known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits.
We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits.”
The results come from an online survey of 1,538 people living in Brisbane, Australia.
Dr Shanahan said:
“So how can we encourage people to spend more time in green space?
We need more support and encouragement of community activities in natural spaces.
Our children especially benefit from spending more time outdoors.
Kids who grow up experiencing natural environments may benefit developmentally and have a heightened environmental awareness as adults than those who don’t.”
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The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Shanahan et al., 2016).