ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
New Insights Show Ginseng Fights Inflammation
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Safe Toys for Dogs
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
CANCER
Scams and Shams That Prey on Cancer Patients
Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer
Multiple Screening Strategy Boosts Cervical Cancer Detection
CAREGIVING
Falls Are Top Cause of Injury, Death Among Elderly
Diabetes Epidemic Now Poses Challenges for Nursing Homes
Weekend Admission May Be Riskier for GI Bleeding
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
COSMETIC
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
Biological Product Shows Promise Against Gum Disease
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
DIET, NUTRITION
Fruits, Vegetables, Teas May Cut Smokers' Cancer Risk
Teens Lose More Weight Using Healthy Strategies
Eating Less May Slow Aging Process
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Household Chemicals May Affect Cholesterol Levels
Prenatal Exposure to Traffic Pollution May Lead to Asthma
Seasons Arriving 2 Days Earlier, Study Says
EYE CARE, VISION
Diabetic Eye Disease Rates Soaring
Clues Found to Brain Mechanism Behind Migraines
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
FITNESS
Will the Wii Keep You Fit?
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Deployment Takes Toll on Army Wives
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
Boosting Vitamin D Can Do a Heart Good
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
Treat Kids to a Safe Halloween
School Meals Need to Get Healthier
MEN'S HEALTH
Countdown to Hair Loss
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
SENIORS
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
As You Age, Better Health Means Better Sex
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Add your Article

Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind

(HealthDay News) -- The closer you live to nature, the healthier you're likely to be.

For instance, people who live within 1 kilometer of a park or wooded area experience less anxiety and depression, Dutch researchers report.

The findings put concrete numbers on a concept that many health experts had assumed to be true.

"It's nice to see that it shows that, that the closer humans are to the natural environment, that seems to have a healthy influence," said Dr. David Rakel, director of integrative medicine and assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

One previous study had noted fewer health inequalities between rich and poor people in areas with lots of green space, and other studies have echoed these health benefits. But much of this research had relied on people's perceptions of their physical and mental health.

This new objective look at the matter involved scouring medical records of 345,143 people in Holland, assessing health status for 24 conditions, including cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological diseases. This information was then correlated with how much green space was located within 1 kilometer and 3 kilometers of a person's postal code.

People living in more urban environments had a higher prevalence of 15 of the 24 conditions, with the relationship strongest for anxiety disorder and depression.

In areas with only 10 percent of green space, about 2.6 percent of people experienced anxiety disorders, compared to 1.8 percent of people in areas with 90 percent green space. The disparity was evident for depression as well -- 3.2 percent of people living in more urbanized areas had depression versus 2.4 percent of those in more rural areas.

The health benefits were evident only when the green acres were within a kilometer, not at the 3 kilometer perimeter, except for anxiety disorders, gastrointestinal digestive disorders and so-called medically unexplained physical symptoms, the researchers said.

Children and poor people suffered disproportionately from lack of green acres, the researchers found.

The study findings were published online Thursday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Any number of factors could account for the benefits of green space, experts said.

More natural sunlight, for instance, has been linked with a lower incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other benefits.

"If patients in hospitals have direct exposure to sunlight through a window or natural sunlight, hospital stays are shorter and patients have less complications," Rakel said. "That's been well-established.

More light also means more vitamin D in the skin, which has been found to elevate mood and improve muscle strength, he added.

And fresh air, obviously, has a benefit as well, as do the exercise opportunities that come with more open space.

But much of the relief may come from the simple ability to de-stress.

"If we're in a busy street with more technology and artificial things, we're going to be multi-tasking more, which prevents us from focusing on one thing," Rakel said. "In this day and age, we really need some sort of centering practice. We need to get our mind out of its own stories and focus on something that's pure. Nature is a beautiful example of that -- it's the way things were meant to be."

This study has "implications not only for city planning but also for indoor design and architecture," said Richard Ryan, professor of psychology, psychiatry and education at the University of Rochester Medical Center. But the benefit is proportional to how much people pay attention to nature, he said.

"If they're in their heads and not paying attention, it doesn't do them much good," said Ryan, co-author of a recent study report that people who are exposed to natural elements are more socially oriented, more generous and value community more. Another experiment he was involved in found that people who spent time outdoors had more vitality and energy.

More green space may also be a way for whole communities to become healthier.

"As health-care costs spiral out of control, it behooves us to think about our green space in terms of preventive health care," said Dr. Kathryn J. Kotrla, associate dean and chair of psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Round Rock campus. "This highlights very clearly that our Western notion of body-mind duality is entirely false. The study shows that we are a whole organism, and when we get healthy that means our body and our mind get healthy."

SOURCES: David Rakel, M.D., director, integrative medicine, and assistant professor of family medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Kathryn J. Kotrla, M.D., associate dean and chair of psychiatry and behavioral science, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Round Rock campus; Richard Ryan, Ph.D, professor of psychology, psychiatry and education, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, N.Y.; Oct. 15, 2009, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.