A new Finnish study shows that regularly spending time in green spaces such as parks and gardens can help reduce the use of prescription drugs.
If you’re lucky enough to live next to verdant meadows or picturesque woodlands, views of these places from your home don’t seem to have the same effect. There was no association between prescription drug use and the amount of green and aquatic space available to people. Getting out and spending time there can make a difference.
Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare, the University of Tampere and the University of Eastern Finland used data on about 6,000 Helsinki residents, using medications for conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, high blood pressure and asthma as surrogate indicators for them. health status.
“Exposure to the natural environment is thought to be beneficial to human health, but the evidence is inconsistent,” the researchers wrote.
Study participants were asked about the medications they took, as well as how much “green and blue” (land and natural surroundings near lakes, rivers and oceans) spaces they could see from their homes, how often they viewed these views, and their How often you spend time or exercise.
Compared with fewer than one visit per week, three to four visits per week were associated with a 33 percent lower odds of using mental health medications, a 36 percent lower odds of using blood pressure medications, and a 26 percent lower odds of using asthma medications.
For at least five visits per week, these numbers dropped by 22%, 41%, and 24%, respectively. The link remained when household income and education were taken into account, but taking into account BMI (body mass index) did weaken the link.
“This finding is consistent with preliminary evidence highlighting the importance of physical use of green spaces for mental health, and suggests that this applies equally to other health conditions, such as asthma and hypertension,” the researchers claim.
The data here aren’t strong enough to show causation — it’s worth considering that those who are in better health have more opportunities and motivation to get outdoors — but it does suggest a potential link here that warrants further exploration.
It also shows that sitting down and thinking about nature isn’t quite the same as getting out and spending time in nature. Previous research has shown that the effects of being outdoors are felt quickly.
That said, before people can go outside and spend time in them, green spaces need to be available — and according to the authors behind the new study, that’s where urban planning comes in.
“A growing body of scientific evidence supports the health benefits of exposure to nature, which may increase the supply of high-quality green spaces in urban environments and promote their active use,” the researchers wrote.
“This could be a way to improve health and welfare in cities.”
The study was published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.