People who live in contact with nature have better mental health

Since awareness of the importance of preserving nature has spread around the world, the idea that it is healthy to be in contact with natural environments is healthy. The contemplative life associated with walks in the woods and rest under the trees. However, it is one thing to believe that nature walks are subjectively enjoyable, and quite another to believe that they can have objective effects on our health and well-being.

A recent publication in the journal Nature sheds light on the subject. According to his findings, walks in natural areas away from human influence are associated with better mental and physical health, As long as they are long enough.

Humans in nature: something more than a good time

The study, based on questionnaires, included questions related to the frequency of visits to natural environments and their quality (more or less distant from human intervention), as well as four dimensions of health: mental health, social cohesion, physical activity and blood pressure. . These four dimensions were linked to the results of previous studies similar to this one, and it was planned to test whether similar results could be obtained.

As for the sample used, the group of people studied consisted of 1,538 people residing in the Australian city of Brisbane.

A marked improvement in our happiness

The results show that people who walk alone in wild environments have a lower tendency to suffer from depression and hypertension (a risk factor for heart disease), in addition to suffering less stress. People who came into contact with nature more often also had a significantly higher level of social cohesion.

However, the benefits associated with mental health and blood pressure are revealed as long as the duration of nature walks is long enough. Thus, the possible benefits of prowling in pristine areas would be achieved with doses of at least half an hour of walking in nature, and no less. The frequency of these walks could be at least weekly, and could take place in large parks to temporarily escape the urban environment around them.

How is this explained?

This is not the first study linking contact with nature and psychological benefits. For example, research links the integration of schools into green spaces with better academic results for their students. However, It is important to note that this study is not based on an experiment, and is limited to presenting correlations between variables.

Among the ideas proposed by members of the research team is that if everyone visited a park for half an hour once a week, cases of depression could be reduced by 7%, but the truth is it’s not sure. People who walk in natural areas suffer less from depression, but that does not have to mean that it is these walks that produce these improvements: perhaps there is a still unknown factor that is generally present in people who practice this activity and that produces the right mind. and the physical condition found in this study. Correlation does not imply causation.

However, there are also explanations of the possible mechanisms by which these steps can be the ones that directly improve people’s standard of living. Among them, the fact that in natural spaces, the air is of better quality and less polluted, That the wild areas have more height differences and crosswise lead to more physical activity, protection from the sun of areas in the shade. All this would result in better health, linked to the onset of mental disorders.

These possibilities make the findings of this study relevant for programs aimed at preventing the disease and reducing its prevalence. Considering how cheap it is to walk around the parks, it is worth it for us, individually and for healthcare establishments, to give this option a chance.

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