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Increasing tree canopy and green cover across Greater Sydney and increasing the proportion of homes in urban areas within 10 minutes' walk of quality green, open and public space are among the New South Wales premier's new priorities. Cities around Australia have similar goals. In our latest study, we asked if more of any green space will do? Or does the type of green space matter for our mental health?
Our results suggest the type of green space does matter. Adults with 30% or more of their neighbourhood covered in some form of tree canopy had 31% lower odds of developing psychological distress. The same amount of tree cover was linked to 33% lower odds of developing fair to poor general health.
Health - Adults - Areas - Percentages - Grass
We also found poorer mental and general health among adults in areas with higher percentages of bare grass nearby, but there's likely more to that than meets the eye.
How did we do the research?
Research - Changes - Health - Average - Years
Our research involved tracking changes in health over an average of about six years, for around 46,000 adults aged 45 years or older, living in Sydney, Newcastle or Wollongong. We examined health in relation to different types of green space available within a 1.6 kilometre (1 mile) walk from home.
Our method helped to guard against competing explanations for our results, such as differences in income, education, relationship status, sex, and age. We also restricted the sample to adults who did not move home, because it is plausible that people who are already healthier (for instance because they are more physically active) move into areas with more green space.
Answer - Trees - Grass - Weeds
So is the answer simply more trees and less grass? Not exactly. Let's get into the weeds.
Imagine you're walking down a typical street on a summer's day in the middle of an Australian city. It's full of right angles, grey...
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