People who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are significantly less likely to have high blood pressure or poor mental health than those who do not, according to new research.
Led by The University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), the study suggests people might need a minimum “dose of nature”.
UQ CEED researcher Dr Danielle Shanahan says:
“If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven per cent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure.”
“Given that the societal costs of depression alone in Australia are estimated at $A12.6 billion a year, savings to public health budgets across all health outcomes could be immense,” she said.
Transforming Urban Parks
The research, UQ CEED researcher Associate Professor Richard Fuller said, could transform the way people viewed urban parks.
“We’ve known for a long time that visiting parks is good for our health, but we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits,” he said. “We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits.”
Dr Shanahan said 40 per cent of Brisbane residents did not visit an urban park in a typical week.
“So how can we encourage people to spend more time in green space?” she said. “We need more support and encouragement of community activities in natural spaces. For example, the Nature Play programs in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia provide heaps of ideas for helping kids enjoy the great outdoors.
Our children especially benefit from spending more time outdoors. Kids who grow up experiencing natural environments may benefit developmentally and have a heightened environmental awareness as adults than those who don’t.”
The research team included scientists from UQ’s School of Public Health, the University of Exeter, and CSIRO Land and Water. The ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions is funded by the Australian Government.
Danielle F. Shanahan, Robert Bush, Kevin J. Gaston, Brenda B. Lin, Julie Dean, Elizabeth Barber & Richard A. Fuller Health Benefits from Nature Experiences Depend on Dose Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 28551 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep28551