Nature the healer

Those who live closer to nature are less likely to have an array of medical issues, including obesity and depression, according to a new report. The study found that middle-aged Scottish men who lived in areas that were surrounded by greenery and an abundance of nature had a death rate that was 16% lower than their more urban counterparts. Together with this, the research conducted in Bradford found that pregnant women had added health benefits by living in a greener environment, and consequently had lower blood pressure and gave birth to larger babies.

The study concluded overall that “nature is an unrecognised healer” which offers a huge amount of health benefits, from allergy reductions to increases in self-esteem and mental wellbeing. The study consisted of 11 researchers at the Institute for European environmental policy (IEEP) who spent an entire year looking at more than 200 academic studies for the report. The study was also the most wide-ranging investigation into the relationship between health, nature and wellbeing.

After initially appearing as an unpublicised 280-page European commission literature review in autumn last year, the project was then augmented for Friends of the Earth Europe together with an analysis of the links between nature-related health outcomes and deprivation. Robbie Blake, a nature campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, which commissioned the analysis, said, “The evidence is strong and growing that people and communities can only thrive when they have access to nature. We all need nature in our lives, it gives us freedom and helps us live healthily; yet deprived communities are routinely cut off from nature in their surroundings and it is suffocating for their well-being.”

The new study also includes reference to several other studies that point to nature as an aid in wealth equality, due to the fact that deprived communities generally have fewer natural environments within easy reach. The study also combined research which states that 26% of England’s black and minority ethnic populations visit natural environments less than three times a year, which is compared with just 15% of the rest of the population. Cities such as Oslo were praised by Patrick ten Brink, the IEEP’s director, for consciously taking productive steps to make nature more accessible to all. He said, “We should be inspired by this and work together so that all Europeans have nature within 300 metres of their homes in the next 10 years.”

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