A Finnish study highlights a link between visiting natural areas and health – mental in particular. The causality between the two data remains to be clarified, but these works contribute their stone to the edifice of research on this subject.
“ Exposure to natural environments is thought to benefit human health, but the evidence is conflicting “, explain the authors of a study released on January 16, 2023. They tried to put this idea to the test.
The work is taking place in Finland. Authors from two Finnish universities studied data from 6,000 Helsinki residents. Among these data, they integrated the taking of drugs related to their psychological state of health – insomnia, depression, anxiety, but also physiological – arterial hypertension and asthma. Then these people were asked about their exposure to green spaces (including “blue” spaces such as the sea). The objective: to determine if there is a link, and what is it, between their state of health – mental in particular – and the frequency with which they visit natural areas.
Visiting natural areas, an asset for certain health problems?
For 3 to 4 visits to green spaces per week, the study highlights:
- A 33% reduction in the likelihood of using mental health medication;
- A 36% reduction in the likelihood of using blood pressure medication;
- A 26% reduction in the likelihood of using asthma medication.
” This finding is consistent with tentative evidence pointing to the importance of effective use of green spaces in relation to mental health, and suggests the same is true for other health conditions, such as asthma and asthma. ‘hypertension “, say the authors.
More interestingly, their data does indeed incorporate the notion of “visiting” green spaces — and not just their mere presence in the immediate environment. ” Frequent visits to green space, but not the amount of residential green or blue space, nor views of green and blue space from home, were associated with less frequent use of psychotropic, antihypertensive, and asthma medications in an urban environment. »
What is the impact of economic income or BMI?
The authors were able to determine that economic income and level of education did not change the positive relationship they found.
But, we must remain cautious about causality. An element such as BMI (body mass index) reduced, for example, the importance of the link. Potentially, there may be various biases related to the prior state of health, which offers more or less opportunities to enjoy nature and its benefits. This means that at this stage the conclusions are not universal.
Despite its aporias, this study is a continuation of scientific work that tends to show the role of nature on the health of human beings. And even a tenuous link remains an important clue to help improve certain conditions. A experiment conducted in 2022 already suggested a beneficial impact on the human brain of a simple one-hour walk in a natural environment. ” Given rampant urbanization, the present findings could influence urban planning to create more accessible green spaces and adapt urban environments in ways that benefit the mental health of citizens. “, then concluded the authors.