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Greenspaces and Mental Health

Daniela Bazzali and Josh George

In current times, 55% of the global population is living in urban regions, with the UN predicting that figure to rise to 68% by 2050 (UN, 2018). There are many positives for living in cities such as increased social and work opportunities, as well as better access to quality healthcare and education (Gruebner et al, 2017). However, with the increase of urbanization there is an increase in stress and mental health issues (Gruebner et al, 2017). As a consequence of our increasing urbanization and tendency to control and manipulate our environment, many of us have forgotten the healing powers of nature. Whether it’s a walk in the park, marvelling at a strip of urban greenery, or gardening at home; immersing ourselves in nature even for half an hour has immense psychological and physiological benefits (Iwata et al, 2016). There is a growing body of academic research exploring the restorative effects of nature on human’s well-being. There is evidence to show that human interaction with green spaces can relieve stress, improve cognitive function and increase social cohesion (Itawa et al, 2016). One study showed that proximity to green spaces and exposure levels were significant determinants of psychological well-being in individuals, with ‘27% of depression cases being preventable by spending 5 hours or more per week in a garden’ (Wood et al, 2018). The University of Leeds: Faculty of Public Health even stated that “safe, green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illness.” (Wood et at, 2018).

It has become increasingly popular in recent years. Nowadays, 52% “of all Australians households are growing some of their own food and a further 13 per cent report they intend to start” (Wise, 2014). There is no doubt that gardening helps the environment. Among other benefits, gardening assists in improving air and soil quality, increasing biodiversity (DeMuro, 2013), reducing the amount of plastic used in packaging on supermarkets and saving money. But what might be unknown to people is how much gardening at home has an impact on an individual’s mental health.

The book ‘Grow Your Own’ by P Wise showed a study on people that have gardens at their homes. 51% agreed that planting is good for their mind and soul (Wise, 2014). Wise also presents that gardening is incorporated into many health intervention programs, confirming that this connection to nature can improve your psychological health and serve as a healing process (Wise, 2014). Throughout many research programs, the positive association with gardening has been observed and the results found there were significant reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms, with an overall improvement in mood balance (Soga, Garsom & Yamaura, 2016).

Besides all that, gardening also has secondary beneficial effects in the communities. By increasing quality of life and boosting people’s health, gardening also strengthens a sense of community and local connections. Furthermore, there is also a decrease in crime rates and drug abuse, and an increase in job opportunities (SeMuro, 2013).

Sources

United Nations, Deparment of Economic and Social Affairs. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects The 2018 Revision.

Gruebner, O., Rapp, M. A., Adli, M., Kluge, U., Galea, S., & Heinz, A. (2017, February 24). Cities and mental health. Deutsches Arzteblatt International, Vol. 114, pp. 121–127. https://doi.org/10.3238/arztebl.2017.0121

Iwata, Y., Ine, A. ´, Dhubha´in, N., Brophy, J., Roddy, D., Burke, C., & Murphy, B. (2016). Benefits of Group Walking in Forests for People with Significant Mental Ill-Health. Ecopsychology, 8(1), 16–26. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2015.0045

Wood, E., Harsant, A., Dallimer, M., de Chavez, A. C., McEachan, R. R. C., & Hassall, C. (2018). Not all green space is created equal: Biodiversity predicts psychological restorative benefits from urban green space. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(NOV), 2320. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02320

Greenleaf Communities. ”The Many Benefits of Community Gardens.” DeMuro, K. 2013. Retrieved from:

<https://greenleafcommunities.org/the-many-benefits-of-community-gardens/#:~:text=Community%20gardens%20can%20help%20reduce,costs%20and%20reducing%20water%20runoff.&text=Community%20gardens%3A,biodiversity%20of%20plants%20and%20animals>

Grow Your Own. ”The Potential Value and Impacts of Residential and Community Food Gardening”. Wise, P. 2014. Retrieved from:

<https://www.tai.org.au/sites/default/files/PB%2059%20Grow%20Your%20Own.pdf>

Preventive Medicine Reports. ”Garden is Beneficial for Helth: A Meta-analysis”. Soga, M. , Garsom, K. and Yamaura, Y. 2016. Retrieved from:  <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335516301401>

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About the Social Impact Projects

The Griffith University Social Impact Projects address five significant social justice issues faced by vulnerable communities. Expanding on the work done by Project Safe Space, and Project Open Doors, the Griffith University Social Impact Projects bring Community Partners, students and the University together to work collaboratively in the innovative solution design sprints. Initially designed to address Mental Health and Wellbeing of Griffith students, we soon realised this was a much larger issue intersecting across a number of social justice issues for students and the wider community. The Social Impact Projects aim to contribute in some small way to improving these social issues.