A little dose of happiness is exactly what each of us needs to get through the day, so what’s the best way to get those endorphins flowing? Might we suggest spending some time in green spaces? Spending time in nature has a lot of benefits for your health. In fact, recent studies indicating that the greener a space is, the happier you’ll be in your life.
Greenery Is The Secret To Happiness
If you live in an urbanized area, you might want to start incorporating walks to the park into your routine. For instance, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people who grew up with the least green space nearby faced a 55% increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, as well as substance abuse in later years.
That said, how exactly do green spaces affect everyone around the world?
“Urban environments reshape the lifestyle of citizens. We thought greenery and happiness would be connected somehow, but there was a lack of studies on the global relationship between them,” said Oh-Hyun Kwon,a researcher from Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea, to Treehugger.
Driven by the lack of global data, researchers set out to find this link.
For the study, published in EPJ Data Science, the researchers used satellite imagery to find a link between green spaces and happiness.
The team collected satellite imagery from 90 large cities in 60 countries spread out across the world. These images were taken during the summer, so they provided the team with a good idea of the greenery in each area.
Once they gathered satellite imagery, the researchers used the satellite imagery findings for each city’s average happiness score – they used the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, which is a report that asks people around the world to rate their life satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10.
The researchers made sure to factor in each city’s wealth. After all, this can effectively affect the happiness of its citizens.
What did the study reveal?
The findings revealed a strong association between urban green spaces and higher happiness scores. That said, the GDP aspect of the study did also reveal that the 30 wealthiest countries they surveyed had stronger correlations between green space and happiness than the 30 less wealthy ones.
“First, we observe that urban green space and happiness are correlated with an economic variable (GDP per capita) across 60 developed countries. Note that we studied the cross-sectional relationship between different countries, not the correlation within a single country,” Kwon says.
“Second, we show that the correlation between urban green space and happiness is much stronger for the top 30 wealthiest countries. Lastly, we find that social support plays an important part in urban green space and happiness relations.”
The future of urban greenery
The researchers believe the results can help encourage governments to reevaluate how they look at urban planning,
“This value can be considered as one parameter for happiness in urban planning,” Kwon says. “Also, our paper discussed securing land for green space. It would be challenging or nearly impossible to secure land for green space after built-up areas are developed in cities. Urban planning for parks and green recovery (new greening in built-up areas) should be considered in developing economies where new cities and suburban areas are rapidly expanding.”
How can I spend more time in green spaces?
- Go to the park
- Exercise outside
- Have your social gatherings outside
- Read a book outside
- Have your lunch outside
Engemann, K., Pedersen, C. B., Arge, L., Tsirogiannis, C., Mortensen, P. B., & Svenning, J. C. (2019). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(11), 5188–5193. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807504116
Kwon, OH., Hong, I., Yang, J. et al. (2021). Urban green space and happiness in developed countries. EPJ Data Sci. 10, 28. https://doi.org/10.1140/epjds/s13688-021-00278-7