Giving Compass’ Take:
• Research from Germany indicates that living near trees or woodland landscapes can have positive effects on brain health.
• How can this research help inform community development projects revolving around green space?
• Read about green spaces and their health benefits.
As images of the Northern California wildfires confirmed, living on the edge of a forest comes with considerable dangers. But new research from Germany suggests proximity to a wooded landscape may also have a huge benefit.
In a study of older urban dwellers, it found living in close proximity to forest land is linked with strong, healthy functioning of a key part of the brain. This indicates that, compared with those who live in a mostly man-made environment, people who dwell on the border between city and forest may be better able to cope with stress.
The findings suggest “forests in and around cities are a valuable resource that should be promoted,” writes a research team led by Simone Kuehn of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Its research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Perhaps surprisingly, Kuehn and her colleagues found no such association from living close to urban green spaces such as parks, or near bodies of water. Only proximity to forest land had this apparent positive effect.
The researchers caution that these results do not prove causality; it is possible that, for whatever reason, people with healthier amygdala choose to live near forests. But that seems improbable, to put it mildly.
The study complements the already-strong psychological evidence of the benefits of living close to nature. Previous research has linked access to green space to longer lives, lower levels of aggression, and kids’ cognitive development. One study suggests it even makes for nicer people.
Read more about healthy living near nature by Tom Jacobs at Pacific Standard.
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