Creating More Green Spaces Could Improve Mental Health for 30,000 People in Barcelona, Study Finds
More and more research is defining just how beneficial green spaces can be for human health, especially when woven into urban environments. Now, a new study specifically looks into how the green spaces planned for Barcelona, Spain could benefit the city. The findings show potential improvements in mental health for more than 30,000 people.
The study was published in the journal Environment International and led by Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).
The city’s Eixos Verds Plan for Barcelona’s Eixample district is underway and is meant to introduce more green corridors in Barcelona by converting city streets into green recreational areas.
To determine potential impacts on mental health, the research team created a baseline of green spaces based on Barcelona in 2015 and compared it to the proposed green spaces plan. From there, the researchers looked at exposure data and mental health risk estimates for people in Barcelona, finally calculating preventable cases.
Their findings show the Eixos Verds Plan will create an average increase of 5.67% of green area, ultimately preventing 31,353 cases of self-perceived poor mental health. The researchers also estimated that the added green space could reduce visits to mental health specialists by 16,800 and could reduce cases of antidepressant use by 13,375. The green space plan could add up to annual mental health-related cost savings of more than 45 million euros, according to the authors.
“What we found was that — even though we’re only increasing the green [space] by about 5 or 6% — you get quite a considerable reduction in the number of cases of mental health problems,” Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, co-author of the paper, told The Guardian.
According to the study authors, at least 30% of the “global burden of disease” is linked to mental health disorders.
Green spaces have been shown to have many benefits. One study found that people in greener neighborhoods had improved mental wellbeing, and a 2019 study noted that green spaces with tree canopy tend to be the best overall for improving human health. Just living near greenery of any kind could boost cognitive function.
The authors noted that their findings could further underscore the importance of introducing more green spaces into Barcelona and other cities around the world.
“Just 20% of the population of Barcelona currently lives in a place that meets the WHO recommendation on green space,” Evelise Pereira, study co-author and researcher at ISGlobal, said, as reported by Phys.org. “At the European level, only 40% of city dwellers enjoy the recommended access to green space, which shows that we still have a lot of work to do in terms of greening our cities.”
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