This wisdom is not new; and the theme of World Health Day 2017, is ‘depression’.
A seminal study published in 1984 in the journal Science by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich, now at Texas A&M University, demonstrated that gazing at a garden can sometimes speed healing from surgery, infections and other ailments.
All other things being equal, patients with bedside windows looking out on leafy trees healed, on average, a day faster, needed significantly less pain medication and had fewer post-surgical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall.
Dr.Ramen Goel, Director Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at Wockhardt, says, “People living close to trees and green spaces are likely to be more active, eating healthy, less likely to be obese and dependent on anti-depressants meet many patients in my life who are obese and therefore depressed. The recovery period is greatly enhanced if they take up a hobby or activity that keeps them close to nature.”
Numerous studies back this up
- In Spain, people living within 300 metres of green spaces report better self- perceived health and mental health (Triguero-Mas et al., 2015).
- Doctors prescribe fewer anti-depressants in urban areas with more trees on the street (Taylor et al., 2015).
- People are happier and have lower mental distress when living in urban areas with more green space (White et al., 2013).
- A review of multiple studies showed the positive links between biodiversity-rich environments and health and well-being (Lovell et al., 2014).
In April 2016, a report called ‘The Health and Social Benefits of Nature and Biodiversity Protection’ by 11 researchers at the Institute for European environmental policy (IEEP) was published. They spent a year reviewing more than 200 academic studies for the report.
This report was then augmented for Friends of the Earth Europe with analysis of the links between nature-related health outcomes and deprivation in March 2017.
Nature increases positive emotions and feelings of vitality (Tyrväinen et al., 2014). Overall, nature is an under-recognized healer, the paper says, offering multiple health benefits from allergy reductions to increase in self-esteem and mental well being.
Being close to nature is a good weapon against obesity as well, adds Dr.Ramen Goel. Citizen initiatives, NGOs & government should see the opportunities of turning networks of protected areas into accessible health hubs that offer benefits to all citizens