By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
What do you think it takes to make a person happy… winning the lottery? Getting a raise at their job? Though these do promote joy in the short-term, a new study from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter found that green areas like parks are great for long-term well-being.
This new research actually builds upon an older study that found populations living in greener urban areas had lower rates of anxiety and depression. The scientists figured this could have been due to a number of factors such as marriage, high incomes, or promotions. “But the trouble with all those things is that within six months to a year, they are back to their original baseline levels of well-being,” explained study co-author Matthew White.
For example, the researchers found a group of people who had won more than $683,000 from the lottery.
Sure, their happiness levels went up, but 6 months later, they were back to where they started. “So, these things are not sustainable; they do not make us happy in the long-term,” said White. In order to find out what does support long-term happiness, the researchers used data from the British Household Panel Survey (now known as the Understanding Society survey), which started all the way back in 1991. “It is a massive, representative sample of the UK population (currently about 40,000 households a year) and asks a load of questions, such as income, marital status etc,” said White. “But it also includes something called the General Health Questionnaire, which is used by clinicians and doctors to diagnose depression and anxiety disorders.”
What they found was that the green, lush areas seemed to promote well-being for many years, unlike the short-term happiness caused by money and other factors. “What you see is that even after three years, mental health is still better which is unlike many of the other things that we think will make us happy,” elaborated White.
The scientists hope their results will encourage cities to make public parks greener and more accessible to their citizens.