ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
High Birth Weight Doubles Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Human Ancestors Put Best Foot Forward 1.5M Years Ago
Healthy adults have potential autoimmune disease-causing cells
CANCER
Vitamin D May Improve Melanoma Survival
Wristbands May Lessen Nausea After Radiation
Sharing Cancer Info May Be Empowering
CAREGIVING
TV Watching Doesn't Fast-Track Baby's Skills
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
COSMETIC
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
DENTAL, ORAL
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
DIABETES
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
DIET, NUTRITION
Antioxidants Abound in Cereals, Popcorn, Whole-Grain Snacks
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
Fruits, Vegetables, Teas May Cut Smokers' Cancer Risk
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say
Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs
Meat-Eating Dinosaurs Used Legs and Arms Like Birds
EYE CARE, VISION
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
FITNESS
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a 'Stress-Buffer'
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Soluble Fiber, But Not Bran, Soothes Irritable Bowel
8 Drugs Doctors Would Never Take
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Heart Disease
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
SENIORS
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Martial Arts Training May Save Seniors' Hips
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Supportive Weigh-In Program Keeps Pounds Off
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
For Women, Moderate Midlife Drinking Linked to Healthier Old Age
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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.