If you are feeling the weight of multiple prescription meds, taking a walk in your local green space may help! Nature has been known to have numerous calming effects on mental and physical health, and a new study now has the science to back up the claims. Read on to learn how spending more time in green spaces can help lower your dependency on prescription medications.
Previous studies about exposure to natural environments left inconsistent evidence, so researchers set out to find some answers. They drew responses from 16,000 randomly selected residents of Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa, from the Helsinki Capital Region Environmental Health Survey in 2015-16. These three cities make up the largest urban area in Finland.
Information was gathered on how city dwellers aged 25 and older experienced residential and blue spaces within 1 km of their homes. Participants were asked to report their use of prescription psychotropic medications, including those for high blood pressure and asthma.
Participants were also asked how often they spent time outside in green spaces during May and September and whether they could see green or blue spaces from any windows in their homes. If so, they were asked how often they took in the views. Their options ranged from seldom to often.
For the study, researchers defined green areas as gardens, forests, parks, cemeteries, zoos, castle parks, herbaceous vegetation associations such as natural grassland and moors, and wetlands. Blue areas were defined as lakes, rivers, and the sea.
It was found that the amount of residential green and blue spaces or views of them from home were not associated with the use of prescription meds for insomnia, mental health, high blood pressure, or asthma. However, the number of visits to green spaces made an impact. Compared with less than one weekly visit, visiting 3 – 4 times weekly was associated with 33% lower odds of using mental health medications, 36% lower odds of using blood pressure medications, and 26% lower odds of using asthma medications.
These associations between frequent green space visits and lower use of drugs for depression, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, and asthma were not dependent on socio-economic position.
Researchers concluded, “Mounting scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of nature exposure is likely to increase the supply of high-quality green spaces in urban environments and promote their active use. This might be one way to improve health and welfare in cities.”
Maintaining General Health
Keeping general health in check can take various modalities, including eating right, exercising, and spending time in green spaces. Getting the proper vitamins and nutrients can also help keep the body and mental health in shape.
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