Study Finds,Living Near A Forest Will Make You Happier

 
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Couple walking in the woods

Want to be happier and better able to cope with stress? New research says living near a forest, even if you're in the city makes a positive impact.

A long-term study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and published in Nature Scientific Reports found another key relationship between humans and nature. It's been confirmed many times that humans are better able to cope with chronic stress and are happier when connected with nature. However, this study finds that forests, in particular, are one of the best remedies.

People living in cities face many physical and psychiatric challenges, including systematically increased rates of illness, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and chronic stress. These rates are all much higher than their country living counterparts. However, the research team sought out whether living near different natural landscapes would help with these illnesses.

The team studied individuals living near urban green spaces, forests, and wastelands to determine its influence on the amygdala, which regulates stress in the brain. The team found significant evidence that city dwellers living near a forest were more likely to have healthy amygdalas and thus better able to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.

 

 

Interestingly, the study was not able to find any significant difference in city dwellers that lived near urban green spaces or wastelands. Hence, the team concluded that living near a forest is one of the most significant positive factors urban dwellers can do to reduce stress and increase happiness.

Interesting follow up research may compare living near other natural landscapes compared to forests. Are people happier living near a forest or near a beach? What about a forest compared to the jagged peaks of the Rockies? Are people that grow up in desert climates happier when they live near forests or desert scrub? Research suggests that all humans have a predisposition to African savannas as babies and children. The researchers sum it up noting that humans have a "pervasive Pleistocene taste in landscape." However, with age that preference changes often times to the natural landscape (not cities) each individual spends the most time in.

 

It is estimated that by the year 2050 70 percent of the world's population will be living in a city. While the health and psychological downsides to city living are apparent, it is possible to plan for escapes and natural environments nearby cities. Should a city build a green space, a golf course, or leave the area forested? Those are important questions as cities become more populated and its residents cope with a disconnect from nature. This study and ones to follow can help urban planners develop cities that maximize happiness, efficiency, and opportunity. After all, that's what we've come to expect from our cities.

Trevor Nace is a geologist, Forbes contributor, founder of Science Trends, and adventurer. Follow his journey @trevornace.

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