There is no single solution to the worldwide epidemic of poor mental health; addressing its root causes—like poverty-triggered stress and social isolation—and choosing effective treatment for sufferers remains paramount. One way to potentially partly buffer against the effects of poor mental health is through contact with nature, including the green spaces within metropolises.
In July, a study was published in Science Advances that outlines a model that will let policymakers see nature’s impacts on psychological wellbeing in much the same way. The relationship between nature, mental health, and general psychological wellbeing are still tenuous but a subject of much research, and for now, the framework designed to encapsulate these connections is merely a concept. But if the benefits of green spaces on mental health become clearer over time, then this framework certainly has the potential to influence policymakers to create more green spaces.
Contact with nature is an anti-anxiety strategy, one that has been proven to have a positive effect on people with mental health problems. It has also been shown to help build social cohesion by bringing potentially lonely people together in a shared public space.
Policymaking is, unfortunately, largely driven by economic benefits, but considering that poor mental health impacts the economy, through treatment costs and lost productivity at work, there’s a reason to be optimistic about the integration of more green spaces in our cities.