People living in urban areas who visit parks for at least 30 minutes each week are less likely to have high blood pressure or depression, a new study has found.
According to Australian researchers, urbanisation ‘is emerging as one of the most important global health issues of the 21st century, with cities becoming epicentres for chronic non-communicable physical and mental health conditions'.
However, there is a growing recognition of the key role green spaces could play in addressing this public health challenge.
The researchers looked at over 1,500 people living in an Australian city. They found that those who visited parks for at least 30 minutes each week were much less likely to have high blood pressure or report symptoms of depression.
"If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be 7% fewer cases of depression and 9% fewer cases of high blood pressure. Given the societal costs of depression alone, savings to public health budgets across all health outcomes could be immense," commented Dr Danielle Shanahan of the University of Queensland.
The researchers said that while it has long been known that visiting parks is good for our health, ‘we are now beginning to establish exactly how much time we need to spend in parks to gain these benefits'.
It now appears that 30 minutes each week is the minimum 'dose of nature' that people require.
"We have specific evidence that we need regular visits of at least half an hour to ensure we get these benefits. So how can we encourage people to spend more time in green space? We need more support and encouragement of community activities in natural spaces," they suggested.
The researchers also emphasised the importance of children spending time outdoors.
"Kids who grow up experiencing natural environments may benefit developmentally and have a heightened environmental awareness as adults than those who don't," they said.