Although we’ve known for a while that living near green space improves people’s mental health, new research show that this improvement persists for years, making it better than winning the lottery.
The sustained mental health improvement runs against conventional wisdom about people’s happiness. It’s called the ‘hedonic effect‘ which means that people have a baseline level of happiness and that any change in circumstances that increases or decreases it soon wears off, and there’s a return to the previous baseline happiness level. The study shows that moving to a greener area doesn’t just give a temporary boost in happiness, but a lasting one. So it’s way better than winning the lottery, after which baseline happiness levels soon return. How incredible is that!
The research is from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter. The comprehensive longitudinal study followed participants over a 5 year period, addressing several hypotheses about how moving either to greener areas, or to less green areas, might effect their mental health.
Each participant moved between the second and third year of the study.
Those who move to a greener area had significantly better mental health for each of the following 3 post-move years – an unexpected result. Those who moved away to a less green area reported poorer metal health immediately preceding their move, but then gradually returned to base line.
The researchers concluded:
Moving to greener urban areas was associated with sustained mental health improvements, suggesting that environmental policies to increase urban green space may have sustainable public health benefits.
Read more at Smithsonian.com