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Green spaces in Norwich boost "wellbeing"

PUBLISHED: 09:59 23 April 2013 | UPDATED: 09:59 23 April 2013

General view of Waterloo Park Pavilion

General view of Waterloo Park Pavilion

Archant

Living near green spaces such as parks and gardens in cities and towns can improve health and happiness, according to new research.

Living near green spaces such as parks and gardens in cities and towns can improve health and happiness, according to new research.

The study has found people living in urban areas of the UK reported less mental distress and higher life satisfaction when they were living in greener areas.

The research, published in the journal Psychological Science, has been led by Dr Mathew White from the University of Exeter Medical School’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

Dr White said: “We’ve found that living in an urban area with relatively high levels of green space can have a significantly positive impact on well-being, roughly equal to a third of the impact of being married.”

This effect is also equivalent to a tenth of the impact of being employed, compared with being unemployed, Dr White said.

The scientists involved say the results show that even when stacked up against other factors that contribute to life satisfaction, living in a greener area has a significant effect.

Mike Parker is parks and open spaces officer for Norwich City Council, which maintains 23 public parks and 95 open spaces.

He said places like Eaton Park or Mousehold Heath held a wide-ranging appeal which could help boost wellbeing.

“We are quite a densely-populated city, so these green spaces are a very important place to get away socially,” he said. “You don’t have to walk very far to find a green space in Norwich, and every person gets a different benefit.

“It could be families getting their kids outside to educate them, or sometimes it is just the escapism of reading a book.

“It could be dog walkers socialising with people they would otherwise not meet, or people getting together for sport or recreation or to have a picnic. When we do consultations to ask what things are important to people, we always get very passionate responses and parks are always very high on the list.”

Findings from previous studies have suggested a correlation between green space and wellbeing, but those studies were not able to rule out the possibility that people with higher levels of wellbeing simply move to greener areas.

Dr White said the research could be important for psychologists, public health officials and urban planners who are interested in learning about the effects that urbanisation and city planning can have on population health and wellbeing.

Dr White said: “These kinds of comparisons are important for policymakers when trying to decide how to invest scarce public resources, such as for park development or upkeep, and figuring out what bang they’ll get for their buck.”

Have you got a favourite park in Norwich? If so, what do you like about it and do you think visiting it increases your happiness? Please leave a comment and let us know.

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