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The toll of living in a concrete jungle

October 15, 2009 |  6:00 am

Green People who live in rural areas appear to have a major health advantage compared with city-dwellers. Living close to green space improves one's mental and physical health across a wide range of disease states, according to a new study.

Researchers in the Netherlands looked at the health records of people registered with 195 family doctors across the country. The percentages of green space within a 1-kilometer and 3-kilometer radius (that's 0.68 of a mile to 1.86 miles) of their homes were calculated.

Overall, the prevalence of 15 of 24 diseases was lower among people living with more green space, particularly those with more green space within 1 kilometer. The prevalence of anxiety disorders among those living in an area containing 10% green space within a 1-kilometer radius was 26 per 1,000. For those living in an area with 90% green space, the rate was 18 per 1,000. Depression rates in the first group were 32 per 1,000 compared with 24 per 1,000 for people living around more green.

The researchers also found that the impact of living near green space was greatest for people who spent the most time at home, including children and people of lower socioeconomic status.

The presence of green space may influence health through several mechanisms, the authors said. It could assist with recovery from stress, allow for more social interactions with neighbors and create more opportunities for physical activity. Air quality may be better, too.

"Our study shows that the role of green space in the living environment for health should not be underestimated," the authors wrote.

The study was published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times

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