People who live in contact with nature have better mental health
Since the awareness of the importance of preserving nature has spread throughout the world, so has the idea that being in contact with natural environments is healthy. The contemplative life associated with walks in the forest and rest under the trees. However, it is one thing to believe that nature walks are pleasant from the subjective point of view, and another is to believe that they can have objective effects on our health and well-being.
A recent publication in the journal Nature sheds some light on the matter. According to his conclusions, walks through natural spaces far from the influence of the human being are associated with better mental and physical health as long as they are long enough.
Humans in nature: something more than a pleasant time
The study, based on questionnaires, included questions related to the frequency of visits to natural environments and the quality of them (more or less removed from human intervention), as well as four dimensions of health: mental health, social cohesion, physical activity and blood pressure. These four dimensions have been linked to findings from previous studies similar to this, and it was intended to verify if similar results could be obtained.
Regarding the sample used, The group of people studied was composed of 1,538 individuals living in the Australian city of Brisbane. .
A clear improvement in our happiness
The results reveal that people who walk alone in wild environments show a lower tendency to develop depression and hypertension (a risk factor for heart disease), in addition to suffering less stress. The people who came into contact with nature more frequently also had a significantly higher level of social cohesion.
But nevertheless, the benefits associated with mental health and blood pressure are revealed as long as the length of nature walks is long enough . Thus, the possible benefits of marauding through virgin areas would be obtained with doses of at least half an hour of nature walks, and not less. The frequency of these trips could be, at least, weekly, and could be done in large parks in which to escape momentarily from the urban environment that surrounds them.
How is this explained?
This is not the first study that links contact with nature and psychological benefits. For example, an investigation relates the integration of schools in green spaces with a better academic performance of their students. But nevertheless, It is important to note that this study is not based on an experiment, and only limited to presenting correlations between variables .
Among the ideas proposed by the members of the research team is that if everyone visited a park for half an hour once a week, the cases of depression could be reduced by 7%, but the truth is that this is not safe . People who walk through natural areas have less depression, but this does not have to mean that these walks are those that produce these improvements: perhaps there is some factor still unknown that is usually present in people who perform this activity and that is what produces the good mental and physical state that has been found in this study. Correlation does not imply causality.
However, there are also explanations about possible mechanisms by which these trips can be those that directly improve the level of life of people. Among them, the fact that in natural areas the air is of better quality and is less polluted , that the wild areas have more slopes and crossing them entails to carry out more physical activity, the protection against the sun of the shaded areas. All this would result in better health, related to the appearance of mental disorders.
These possibilities make the conclusions of this study relevant for programs to prevent diseases and reduce their prevalence. Considering how cheap it is to walk around parks, It is worthwhile for both us individually and the health institutions to give this option a chance .