In a recent study published in the journal Planetary Health, research conducted a massive, long-term, population-scale study comprising 2.3 million individuals from Wales to elucidate whether greater exposure to green and blue spaces (GBS) could be linked with mental health outcomes. Results from this 10-year-long longitudinal dynamic panel study revealed that greater exposure was associated with reduced common mental disorders (CMD), with these results more significant for individuals from more socio-economically deprived quintiles. These findings can help inform government policy on GBS, especially those planning GBS set-up to improve the mental health of their communities.
Common mental disorders (CMD) remain a primary contributor to the worldwide disease burden, resulting in an estimated 4.9% reduction in disability-adjusted life-years. Recent research has hypothesized that increased exposure to greener and blue spaces (GBS) or living close to green spaces may be responsible for improved mental health outcomes. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of longitudinal scientific evidence to support this hypothesis.
GBS comprises open-air natural settings, including parks, gardens, forests, beaches, lakes, and ponds, and has long been categorized as cultural ecosystem services. High-quality GBS accessibility and distribution, however, is unequal, with individuals living in deprived areas, older adults, the sick and disabled, and minority ethnic communities being far more deprived than their more affluent, younger, and more mobile counterparts.
Small-scale cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have suggested that increased GBS exposure may result in better mental health and well-being. However, they have predominantly included area- rather than household-level census data and been restricted to urban settings. Furthermore, the results from these pilots have been inconclusive, differing in estimated lag times between GBS exposure and beneficial mental health outcomes.