Parks, green space essential for health

April 20, 2011 at 11:45 PM
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill., April 20 (UPI) -- People in greener settings tend to become more generous than others, with more mutual trust and willingness to help others, U.S. researchers said.

Frances "Ming" Kuo of the University of Illinois studied the effect of green space on humans in a number of settings, such as Chicago public housing residents living in high-rises with a tree or two and some grass outside their buildings; college students exposed to slide shows of natural scenes in class; children with attention deficit disorder playing in a wide range of settings; senior citizens in Tokyo with varying degrees of access to green walkable streets; and middle-class volunteers restoring prairie ecosystems.

"In less green environments, we find higher rates of aggression, violence, violent crime and property crime -- even after controlling for income and other differences," Kuo said in a statement. "We also find more evidence of loneliness and more individuals reporting inadequate social support."

Among the findings were:

-- Access to nature and green environments yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline and impulse control and greater mental health overall.

-- Less access to nature is linked to exacerbated attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, higher rates of anxiety disorders and higher rates of clinical depression.

-- Greener environments enhance recovery from surgery, enable and support higher levels of physical activity, improve immune system functioning, help diabetics achieve healthier blood glucose levels and improve functional health status and independent living skills among older adults.

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