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Reviewing the evidence

Healthy Parks Healthy People: the State of the Evidence 2014
Summary of Preliminary Findings

Parks Victoria and the School of Health and Social Development, Faculty of Health, Deakin University (November 2014)

An extensive review of the current research and evidence of the connection between nature and health is currently underway by Parks Victoria and the School of Health and Social Development, Faculty of Health, Deakin University. The Healthy Parks Healthy People: the State of the Evidence 2014 builds on two previous Healthy Parks Healthy People literature reviews in 2002 and 2008 and draws on more than 600 published articles.

The review will provide an essential resource for many disciplines including health, nature conservation, park management, planning, education and design. The preliminary findings are testament to the physical, mental, spiritual, cultural and social benefits to human health of contact with nature. They include:

  • People living more than 1 km away from a green space have 1.42 higher odds of experiencing stress those living less than 300 m from a green space.(Stigsdotter et al 2010)
  • An Australian study that found  residents in neighbourhoods containing greater than 20% green space were significantly more likely both to walk and to participate in moderate to vigorous physical activities on at least a weekly basis. (Astell- Burt et al., 2014)
  • Youth engaging in parks find nature to be therapeutic and rewarding, which facilitates their health, well-being and spiritual growth (O’Brien et al., 2011)
  • Children involved in unstructured play in nature are calmer and will engage in richer imaginative play, increased physical activity, more focused play, and with positive social interactions (Nedovic et al., 2013)
  • Structured activity in local parks is a motivator for older adults to visit, and share with their peers (Pleson et al., 2014)
  • Adolescents who spend time in nature have a greater sense of calm and focus during study, health and wellbeing, and a greater environmental awareness (Quynh et al., 2013)
  • Students with learning disabilities and/or behavioural conditions benefit the most from school-based learning that incorporates the outdoors (Pascoe et al., 2013)
  • Attention restoration and general sense of well-being increases after sitting in a park for 15 minutes (Van Den Berg et al., 2011)
  • Time spent outdoors is linked with increased work productivity and creativity, and decreased levels of stress and anxiety (de Bloom et al., 2014)
  • Exercising in parks provides benefits to adult’s relaxation and stress management, improving their capacity to disconnect from the rigours of their busy lives (de Bloom et al., 2014; Degenhardt et al., 2011)
  • Spending time in nature provides rehabilitative and recuperative benefits to those suffering serious physical and mental illnesses. (Nakau et al., 2013; Astell-Burt et al., 2013).

How can I get involved?

The preliminary findings provide a resource that increases our understanding of how humans are dependent on nature for their physical, mental, social and spiritual health needs. Further qualitative and quantitative research will continue to inform our understanding of the health and nature links.  

The Healthy Parks Healthy People: the State of the Evidence 2014 report will be released soon. Effective communication of the evidence is the essential final part of this review.

Parks Victoria seeks to build new partnerships and reach new audiences for this important work. For the review to be a valuable resource across private and public sectors, new methods of communication are needed. Your assistance in communicating these findings beyond the park sector would be greatly appreciated.

To find out more visit www.hphpcentral.com

Healthy Parks Healthy People approach

The Healthy Parks Healthy People approach has four key principles:

  • the well-being of all societies depends on healthy ecosystems
  • parks nurture healthy ecosystems
  • contact with nature is essential for improving emotional, physical, and spiritual health and well-being
  • parks are fundamental to economic growth and to vibrant and healthy communities.

Our health depends on nature

Nature is essential for human health and well-being. The quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and many other features of the natural environment play a significant role in human health. Our parks and public open spaces are critical as they connect people to nature’s health benefits.

This understanding is deepened by a continuing to analyse the evidence on the links between nature and human health and well-being.