Green Spaces May Resolve Public Health Gaps

Living near parks, woodlands, and even small open spaces makes people healthier and may be a strategy to cure health inequalities between rich and poor, according a study published Nov. 7 in The Lancet, the renowned British medical journal.

Richard Mitchell from Glasgow University and Frank Popham from the University of St Andrews report in "Green space, psychological restoration, and health inequality" (The Lancet, Vol. 372, Issue 9650, pp. 1614-1615) on their analysis of more than 366,000 records of people who died between 2001 and 2005. They found even small parks and green spaces in the areas where the people lived made a big difference in their risk of fatal diseases. The change was particularly apparent in relation to heart attacks and strokes, and the effect was largest for those who lived surrounded by the most greenery. The researchers suggest the presence of green spaces encourages people to be more active; other studies suggested contact with green spaces helps to lower blood pressure and stress levels.

"The implications of this study are clear -- environments that promote good health might be crucial in the fight to reduce health inequalities," Mitchell and Popham wrote. They said planners should consider making more green spaces available to improve the health of residents.

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