An international team led by the University of Geneva has recently ascertained how green spaces contribute to the well being of city-dwellers.
For those living in cities, green spaces have been found to play a critical role in the well-being of individuals, regardless of their social class, and that they cannot be replaced by other venues where people meet, such as shopping centres.
The researchers found that when public parks are closed, such as they were during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, inequalities in well-being are intensified.
The research found that parks contributed to all of the nine 'protected needs' that humans generally require to live a happy and healthy life.
Such needs include living in a pleasant environment, being part of a community, and the availability of goods that satisfy vital needs.
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Green spaces and public parks were also found to be important places for inclusivity and social cohesion. Going to the park is an activity that requires more than just a green space - people do different kinds of things in parks to meet the same need, such as exercising, learning about biodiversity or meeting a group of friends or work colleagues.
In these ways, public parks contribute massively to improved mental health. This is crucial as cities and urban living are often associated with higher rates of most mental health problems compared to rural areas.
There is around 40 per cent higher risk of depression, 20 per cent more anxiety and double the risk of schizophrenia, in addition to more loneliness, isolation and stress for city-dwellers compared to those living in rural locations.
In the immediate context of a post-COVID environment, it is all the more important to maintain the infrastructure of parks (such as water access points, toilets, nature trails, etc.) and to ensure access so that they can continue to meet everyone's needs.
Having direct impacts on human health, the presence of green spaces is also vital environmentally by providing services such as the absorption of air pollutants, oxygen production and, lowering surface temperatures.
These factors highlight further the importance green spaces are for urban residents, particularly as they can reduce the ambient temperature of cities by 1°C, thus reducing the urban heat island effect and harmful city smog.