we know that green spaces mean healthy minds. now we need to act on that data.

A new Danish study confirms that being surrounded by greenery improves mental health. As more of us move into rapidly growing cities and aim to explore space, we need to plan for a greener future.

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It ain’t easy being green, according to Kermit the Frog. But you know what’s even harder than being green according to a recent study from Aarhus University which looked at mental health issues of people growing up in the concrete jungle of urban sprawl? Growing up without plenty of greenery. By looking through extensive records documenting the mental health diagnoses of Danish citizens and where the lived, and matching them to satellite images showing how much green space was around their locations, the researchers were able to correlate growing up surrounded by greenery until at least age ten, and living around green spaces as an adult, with a lower risk of being diagnosed with a mental health issue later in life.

They go on to say that since the majority of people will soon be living in cities, this is a very important thing to keep in mind for future urban designs because being surrounded by noise, glass, metal, and concrete with nary a tree or park in sight seems to do a real number on our minds and stress levels. Modern, efficient cities may not worry as much about having enough greenery, using vegetation as mere decorations in their layouts, and our minds may not have had time to adjust to that, as shown by prior studies which also found that exposure to green spaces can ease depression, access to hiking trails relieves stress, and greenery at work makes employees happier and more productive.

Obviously, cities of the future can’t be allowed to grow into sprawling megapolises and become overcrowded factories of misery and mental illness because the consequences of letting this happen will be very damaging and unpleasant. We need to plan for green, clean, walkable urban zones, and try our best to incorporate large parks with hiking trails and plenty of plants and trees so those who’ll live in those cities will be healthier, happier, more productive, while the cities will attract tourists and new residents, expanding their economic and cultural footprints. Yes, it will be expensive, but the financial and political impact of a frustrated, angry populace trapped in concrete boxes with views consisting of nothing but more gray concrete boxes, will be a lot more costly over the long term.

And there’s another area where we should consider the researchers’ advice. If we want to start traversing the solar system and beyond with humans spending years aboard large spaceships, which is really the only reasonable way to do extensive exploration, we have to plan for green spaces aboard. The interiors of these ships will probably take after the interiors of large themed casinos in Las Vegas, resembling small towns and their amenities. Making sure there are plenty of plants and grass, even if it takes a fair bit of water to keep them alive, doesn’t just mean more fresh air for the occupants, it will also help counter the almost inevitable cabin fever, and make zooming through a hostile, radioactive, airless void in a huge, spinning wheel of exotic alloys and high tech fabrics a little less stressful.

# science // future / mental health / scientific research


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