ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Help Restore Lost Sense of Smell
Should Your Child Be Seeing a Chiropractor?
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
In Elderly Women, Hip Fractures Often Follow Arm Breaks
CANCER
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
CAREGIVING
UV Lights, Fans May Curb TB Spread in Hospitals
Late-Life Fatherhood May Lower Child's Intelligence
Timing May Matter in Organ Donation Decisions
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
COSMETIC
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Health Tip: After Liposuction
DENTAL, ORAL
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
DIABETES
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
DIET, NUTRITION
Compound in Berries May Lessen Sun Damage
HELP TO LOSE WEIGHT ON A LOW CAL BUDGET
Antioxidants Abound in Cereals, Popcorn, Whole-Grain Snacks
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Gene Mutation May Cause Some Cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Household Insecticides May Be Linked to Autoimmune Diseases
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
EYE CARE, VISION
Eye Disease, Cognitive Decline Linked in Study
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
Magnetic Pulses to Brain Improve Lazy Eye in Adults
FITNESS
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Should the FDA Regulate Tobacco?
Go To Work But Skip The Car
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
Years of Heavy Smoking Raises Heart Risks
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
Should Your Child Be Seeing a Chiropractor?
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
MENTAL HEALTH
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
17 Ways to Create the Perfect Workday
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
SENIORS
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise Benefits Even the Oldest Old
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
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.