Living in a city? A cheerful, greener neighborhood can make you happier: study – National

Canadian city dwellers surrounded by a symphony of birds and a variety of trees may be reaping the rewards: better mental health.

A Canadian study, published in Nature last monthfound that living in a city neighborhood with many bird and tree species was associated with higher levels of mental health satisfaction.

The study found that people who lived in areas with a greater variety of birds were 6.64 percent happier. People who lived near a wider variety of tree species also reported 5.36 percent higher rates of good mental health.

These increases were also observed when other factors, such as socioeconomic status, were taken into account.

“We found that there was a positive association between mental health and the diversity of trees and birds in people’s postcodes,” explains Rachel Buxton, lead author of the study and assistant professor at Carleton University’s Institute of Environmental Science.

Story continues below advertisement

“There’s a wealth of other research that shows that walking in nature is super good for your mental and physical health. So this is just one piece of that literature and the story that says, ‘It’s great medicine for your mental and physical health to get outside and be in nature,’” she told Global News.

A man poses for a photo on the street during cherry blossom season on April 2, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Getty Images

According to the WHO, in any given year, one in five Canadians experiences a mental illness. Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

As the population ages and becomes more urbanized, it is estimated that within a generation 8.9 million Canadians will be living with a mental illness. Reports from the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

While research has shown While neighborhood characteristics and geographic disparities (such as unemployment, schools, and low income) largely explain mental health, especially in urban settings, the researchers also found that other factors, such as green space, can have a significant impact on mental health.

Story continues below advertisement

Click to play video: 'Spending childhood outdoors good for long-term mental health: study'

Childhood spent outdoors good for long-term mental health: study

To investigate the link between bird and tree diversity and mental health, researchers analyzed data from the Canadian Community Health Survey (2007 to 2022) alongside information on bird and tree species diversity using eBird, a crowdsourced app, and a national forestry inventory. They then looked at this data in several Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.

The latest health and medical news, delivered to your inbox every Sunday.

The researchers focused specifically on birds and trees because they represent a form of “passive exposure” to nature, Buxton explained. In other words, you can experience these aspects of nature just by being outside, like hanging out on your patio or walking to the bus stop.

A female Crested Woodpecker seen in the woods in the Rutherford area of ​​Edmonton, on February 23, 2024.

Getty Images

The study found that there is a strong positive correlation between the diversity of birds and trees in a neighborhood and self-reported mental health.

Story continues below advertisement

“And it’s interesting because there are so many things that affect your mental health, like your income, education or marital status,” Buxton said.

“But we still found this positive association between tree diversity, bird diversity and people’s self-reported mental health. And it had about the same effect as eating fruits and vegetables.”

Why Happy Neighborhoods Can Make You Happier

The Canadian study is not the first to find a link between nature and improved mental well-being.

A 2015 UK studypublished in the International Journal of Health Geography found that higher bird species richness was associated with the prevalence of good health. And a German study 2021 published in Landscape and urban planning found that plant and bird species richness is positively associated with mental health.

Buxton suggested that the link between bird and tree diversity and mental health may have roots in our evolutionary past.

Story continues below advertisement

In Toronto, the crab apple trees bloom in spring on May 11, 2024.

Getty Images

“Humans evolved in natural environments, and we evolved taking our cues from those environments,” she said.

“So in an environment where there are lots of different species, lots of different birds and trees, that’s a pretty good indicator that that environment can meet all of our needs. There’s more food, there’s more trees for shelter, probably more water because that feeds the trees and the birds.”

Click to play video: 'Parks, not pills: British Columbia health program prescribes healing power of nature'

Parks, not pills: British Columbia health program prescribes healing power of nature

In an environment with many bird species and trees, our brain enters what Buxton calls a “rest and digest mode,” allowing for mental recovery and recovery from various stressors.

Story continues below advertisement

“In an environment with fewer species, fewer birds, fewer trees, our needs may not be met, we have to go out and look a little further. We have to survey our environment and that starts to activate our fight or flight response… and that stress response kicks in,” she added.

While the number of street and park trees in Canadian municipalities is expected to increase, the researchers argue that the amount of natural forest cover is declining and climate change, diseases and pests are expected to lead to higher mortality of trees in urban areas.

Close-up of a cardinal sitting on a branch in Hamilton, Ontario.

Getty Images

While there is biodiversity loss in Canadian cities, Buxton says there are still great initiatives underway, such as tree planting, pollination projects and community gardens, to help the natural environment thrive.

“Given the association between tree and bird diversity and self-reported mental health at the urban neighbourhood level in Canada, holistic, nature-based interventions that enhance biodiversity can be viewed as an important tool for public health planning and policy in Canadian municipalities,” the study concluded.

© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Katie Dangerfield

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *