Our species evolved in Africa, and we do our best to reproduce the same effect: land covered with trees and grass in the many places we have wandered into over the millennia. Parks, lawns, and gardens mimic our ancient homeland. According to health studies, exposure to this environment is good for our health in a variety of ways.
In July of 2018, the journal Environmental Research reported on a mega-study of articles on green space exposure. In mega-study information from more than one study is put together and analyzed as one significant study. Scientists at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, looked at 143 studies that observed 100 health measures. The following outcomes were found for individuals with high exposure to green spaces…
- lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, found in saliva,
- a lower heart rate,
- a lower diastolic (lower number) blood pressure reading,
- better changes in heart rate,
- lesser risk of premature birth,
- a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,
- reduced rates of death from all causes,
- lower birth weights,
- fewer deaths from heart and blood vessel disease,
- lower abnormal blood fats,
- fewer asthma attacks.
Some studies which were not added together showed less nervous system disease, cancer, and death from lung disease.
From the above results, the investigators concluded green space is good for our health. They advise policymakers to take this information into account and create, maintain, and improve green spaces. They urge this policy, especially for deprived areas.
Investigators at the University of Essex and other several research institutions in England, Scotland, and the United States came to similar conclusions when looking at the environment and health in Britain. Their work was reported on in June of 2018 in the journal BMC Public Health. They found individuals living in more impoverished neighborhoods with less exposure to green space had…
- higher average systolic (higher number) blood pressure readings,
- a high body mass index (BMI), and
- a high C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation. Type 2 diabetes is a disease of inflammation.
Worse health measures were linked with higher levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a type of air pollution. Sulfur dioxide is released into the atmosphere as a fuel emission from cars, power plants, and other industrial facilities. It can combine with water to form sulfuric acid which when it is inhaled can irritate the nose, throat, bronchi, and lungs. Coughing, wheezing, and a sensation of tightness around the chest take place 10 to 15 minutes after people inhale the chemical. It is especially dangerous for anyone who has been diagnosed with asthma.