What is a protective nature a prerequisite for good health?
Several studies have shown that people who live in areas with preserved nature tend to report better health. And there is a growing concern that the loss of open space and wilderness could be damaging to our health.
Loss of open space and wilderness
Increasing the density of population in many valleys equates to decreasing the density of natural areas. In short, a hefty dose of the good stuff is going down the drain. The obvious downside is increased traffic volume and rising infrastructure costs. Luckily, there are measures in place to stave off the scourge. The federal government can do more to protect the natural capital of the Great Lakes region.
The federal government, local governments, and private citizens have stewardship responsibilities for approximately 44 percent of the nation’s forests, most of which are privately owned. For the sake of a comprehensive federal plan for the Great Lakes region, the three tiers need to come together to ensure the requisite level of protection. One way to do this is through a well conceived federal open space planning and protection program.
The big question is: how can the federal government ensure that the region retains its open spaces in an affordable and environmentally responsible manner? Perhaps the best strategy is to increase federal funding for open space projects and develop a well conceived federal plan for the region’s open spaces. The federal government could form national wildlife refuges, transfer federal property to local jurisdictions for use in public open space projects, and provide grants and loans to local governments for such projects.
Assessing an individual’s level of nature exposure
Several factors influence how nature exposure is measured. One of these is the level of greenspace within the neighbourhood. Some studies have shown that increasing the level of greenspace can improve health and wellbeing. This is especially true in rural areas, where residents are likely to have less access to natural environments than those living in urban areas.
Another factor influencing how nature exposure is measured is the frequency of exposure. This could be measured by the number of minutes spent in natural environments for recreation during the previous seven days. It can also be measured by the distance to public green space. In addition, people may travel outside of their neighbourhood to access nature.
A third measure of exposure is the duration of exposure. It is not uncommon for people to spend short periods of time in nature such as a walk to a local park. However, many people prefer longer walks on the weekend in locations away from home.
The effects of nature exposure on health and wellbeing may vary depending on age, gender, and other factors. Some mental health benefits may last for a long time, while others are more immediate. These may include stress reduction, cognitive function, and mood enhancement.
A recent study examined the relationship between exposure to nature and health and well-being. It used survey data from a nationally representative sample of English citizens. It found that spending 120 minutes a week in nature was associated with better health and well-being. It also found that individuals with less greenspace in their neighbourhood had lower odds of spending at least 120 minutes in nature.
Relationships between time spent in nature and self-reported health
Various types of nature experience have been shown to increase both mental health and wellbeing. These benefits vary from person to person and culture to culture. Some of these benefits last for a significant period of time while others last for a shorter period of time.
Research has found that exposure to nature can decrease stress, improve attention, increase empathy, and upticks in cooperation. Research has also shown that green spaces near schools improve cognitive development. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals call for universal access to green spaces by 2030.
A recent study examined the relationship between nature exposure and self-reported health and wellbeing. The study looked at a representative sample of almost 20,000 adults in the United Kingdom.
Participants responded to a survey regarding their health, including whether they had long-term illnesses, health problems, or restrictions on functioning. The study found that those who spent two hours or more in nature each week reported greater well-being than those who spent less than two hours a week. The study found that the relationship between nature exposure and health and wellbeing was consistent across both rural and urban settings. The results were not significantly different among those who lived in high-deprivation and low-deprivation areas.
The relationship between health and nature was similar to the relationship between health and physical activity, employment, and deprivation. In addition, the size of the relationship was meaningful in terms of potential public health implications.