Living in the concrete jungle isn’t always good for our mental health. Research has shown that city dwellers are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than people who weren’t born and raised in an urban environment. The type of neighborhood you live in may mitigate how the city affects you, though.
Moving to more verdant sections of a city, for example, can produce long-lasting mental health benefits, according to a recent study from the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology journal. Based on a six-year national longitudinal survey of U.K. households, the researchers looked at the mental health of more than 1,000 people who moved residences, and whether their new home was located in a place with more or less green space like parks and gardens.
“Unlike many other changes in life circumstances, where effects on mental health can be short-lived, moving to a greener urban area was associated with sustained mental health gains,” the researchers, from the University of Exeter Medical School, write. People who lived in proximity to natural space had significantly improved mental health up to three years after their move. This adds to a significant body of research that shows how integral nature is to our well-being: Green space has previously been linked to reduced stress, and even in an office, the humble desk plant can have a restorative effect on the brain.
For urban designers and policymakers, it’s something to consider. Parks and patches of trees and grass aren’t just aesthetic flourish; they’re a significant aspect of keeping urban spaces happy and livable.