A new university study has found that urban residents are happier when they live near parks. The research, published in the journal Psychological Science, looked at people's happiness levels over an 18 year period. Led by Dr Mathew White from the University of Exeter Medical School's European Centre for Environment and Human Health, the study tracked changes in wellbeing over time, using data from the annual British Household Panel Survey between 1991 and 2008.
The research team cross referenced this with a land use database and found that people reported a higher life satisfaction and less mental distress when they lived in greener areas, even after lifestyle changes were accounted for. When the green space effect was compared to other factors, the study found that living near a park made people around a third as happy as being married and a tenth as happy as being employed rather than being unemployed.
The researchers argue that these kinds of comparisons are essential for policymakers, who must decide where to invest scarce public resources. They appear to provide the ultimate argument for protecting the natural environment: to do otherwise would detract from people's quality of life.
For more information on this study, please visit the Psychological Science journal website.