The importance of urban green spaces

Green spaces in areas deemed economically deprived can help people to cope when they lose their job. This is the suggestion of new research published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, which found surroundings, rather than age, gender and disposable income, are most closely linked to stress levels of the unemployed.

According to the investigation, woodland spaces and parks can also hold benefits for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and chronic fatigue.

Teams from the University of Edinburgh, the OPENspace research centre, the University of Glasgow and the University of Westminster discovered that for every one per cent increase in such outdoor regions, a reduction in stress levels was recorded.

Catherine Ward Thompson, director of the OPENspace research centre, said: "Where there is more green space around, people's stress levels were measurably lower, while less green space was linked with signs of the body's hormones not working properly."

Carole Seheult, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Research suggesting that green spaces in areas deemed as economically deprived can help people to cope when they lose their job is of considerable interest. 

"If true, it would also give more support to initiatives which encourage people, especially those under stress or suffering from milder symptoms of common mental health problems, to take exercise outdoors utilising green spaces such as riverside walks, urban parks, commons, moorlands and gardens of all sizes.

"Schemes to 'walk and talk', usually in green spaces, allow people to open up to their companion and stress levels may be further reduced by relaxing with the accompanying sounds of woods and fields such as birdsong and running water.

"Reducing overall walking speed and slowing activity levels to integrate with the gentler rhythms of gardening have long been recognised as therapeutic.

"In this time of austerity the sale of green belt sites and encroachment upon other green spaces may seem enticing both to Local Authorities as well as to land developers. 

"However, if small worries can be prevented from escalating into major stressors by the preservation of green spaces they would seem like resources worthy of our protection."