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Urban green spaces vital to wellbeing

9 September 2009

Dr Ross Cameron,  expert in amenity horticulture at Reading Univeristy in the UK, has spoken at the British Science Festival to emphasise the importance of green urban spaces and gardens in keeping us sane and fit.  They are also useful in cooling inner city temperatures – a problem that will increase with climate change.

Studies, he said, had shown that greenery and gardens could reduce crime levels by up to a third, particularly domestic violence levels.

Greenfield sites are not just a luxury, they are essential to our well being,” he said at the British Science Festival. “Creating a concrete jungle does cost lives. It costs lives in terms of depression and encouraging unhealthy lifestyles.”

He said that being in touch with some kind of nature helps many people to unwind. “Gardening is a healthy activity that keeps people fit and open spaces such as parks encourage jogging and other exercise. In terms of cardio-vascular disease and diabetes green spaces are very beneficial. They are known to reduce blood pressure and be generally relaxing. Natural spaces are like the fish tank in a dentist waiting room, a piece of nature that reduces your stress and anxiety.”

Dr Cameron, a lecturer at the University of Reading, said some studies had even shown natural spaces were good for diseases such as dementia and attention deficit disorder.

Violence levels in one Chicago estate with green spaces was a third lower than its more built up neighbour.

He said that rather than decreasing green spaces in the city, they needed to be increased and that government policy should be changed.  “We need to build back greenery to our urban environments,” he said.

In the past five years, reports have shown that more than 20 per cent of front yards in London have been paved over, and more than 40 per cent in the north east of England.

Read our 'Botanic gardens: using biodiversity to improve human wellbeing' report.

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