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Coastal wetlands found to be important to wellbeing

What’s happening? A Flinders University study has discovered that tidal wetlands and protected coastal areas are important to personal wellbeing. Researchers surveyed Adelaide residents about how they connect with and rate the attributes of the Australian city’s metropolitan coastal wetlands. Alongside appreciating the natural beauty, they found respondents visiting these areas for recreation and work had formed a personal attachment to their sanctuaries, trails, national parks and other coastal features. The findings highlight the importance of community spaces and suggest better controls are needed for their future development and the prevention of degradation, the team concluded. (Flinders University, Environmental Science & Policy)

The broader picture – Visiting natural spaces – such as woodlands – is linked to many social and health benefits, so much so that nature can be considered a medicine. Spending time in the great outdoors, for example, can help alleviate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and amazingly can have tangible physical benefits such as the reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature birth, stress and high blood pressure. Even spending just two hours a week in a natural environment can have significant positive wellbeing effects.

Why does this matter? People tend to move to large towns and cities for economic reasons. This comes with traffic and increased levels of air pollution, which have a detrimental effect on wellbeing. Alongside lung and heart conditions, air pollution has been associated with a heightened risk of cognitive decline and even Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. It has also been found to increase anxiety and depression and may raise risk of age-related macular degeneration, which causes irreversible sight loss.

Urban life itself can have a negative impact. For example, lack of low-quality housing, extreme high temperatures, noise pollution and heavy traffic can all increase stress levels and are again detrimental to both physical and mental health.

Making our cities greener – Taken together, these issues show that it’s vital people can access natural spaces. Urban planners can address this by ensuring nature is easy to reach by creating green spaces within their cities. Novel examples of how this can be achieved can be seen in Barcelona, where the city has a 10-year plan to introduce green spaces to counter air pollution and create more public spaces, and in Copenhagen, which aims to introduce artificial floating islands containing greenery that can even be moved around the city. Additionally, efforts to maintain green spaces in Singapore have been ongoing for almost 50 years

Housing developers also need to consider incorporating green spaces in their plans for new builds, while corporations can play their part too by introducing greenery around and inside their physical locations. Even doctors can get involved, by prescribing nature itself to improve their patients’ health.

Lateral thought from Curation – With many now working from home, it’s even more important that we look after our health and wellbeing. For those lucky enough to live near an open space, it’s good to know that just stepping out for a walk for the allowed daily exercise can have a positive impact. But we still need to consider those who suffer limitations in accessing green spaces. Perhaps one solution could be to embrace the concept of biophilia, and encourage bringing nature inside the home too.

 

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Nicola Watts

Health Care Curator

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